German Finance Minister vs. PIIGS: ‘Europe is not for sale!’

by Collettivo Prezzemolo on March 7, 2012

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Dozens of PhD researchers and university workers staged a protest against Wolfgang Schäuble, one of the key architects of Europe’s Age of Austerity.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was treated to an indignant welcome today as he arrived at the European University Institute in Florence to give a lecture on Europe’s future. Organized through the Collettivo Prezzemolo, some 60 PhD researchers and university workers confronted Schäuble — one of the key architects of the punitive austerity measures being imposed on Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — before, during and after his speech.

After plastering the university with hundreds of posters denouncing the Orwellian rhetoric, inhumane policies and undemocratic posturing of Schäuble and the powerful private banks he serves, the protesters unfurled four large banners reading “Europe is not for sale!”, “We are all P.I.I.G.S.!”, “End austerity!”, and “Europe is not sudoku!” — the latter a reference to Schäuble’s puzzling choice to play a game of sudoku during the latest Greek bailout talks.

As Schäuble’s motorcade arrived, dozens of students gathered around the entrance and shouted “we are everywhere!”, a nod to the indignados/Occupy movement that has been shaking the world for the past year. In a statement, the Collettivo Prezzemolo declared that “we feel compelled to denounce what is happening and to exploit the privilege of personally facing one of Europe’s butchers in order to tell him what millions of Europeans would like to tell him.”

Upon his entrance, the protesters — coming from all over Europe and representing over a dozen nationalities — booed the minister and sang Bella Ciao, the anthem of the Italian resistance. During the lecture and subsequent debate, over thirty protesters quietly donned pig masks and made a series of interventions denouncing the undemocratic imposition of the inhumane and counterproductive neoliberal austerity measures of the EU and IMF.

Schäuble has been a particularly controversial figure throughout Europe’s crippling debt crisis. Displaying a brazen disregard for democratic values, the German Finance Minister recently called on Greece to postpone its elections in order to push through the latest EU/IMF-imposed austerity memorandum, leading the Financial Times to conclude that “the eurozone wants to impose its choice of government on Greece – the eurozone’s first colony.”

Greece is now entering its fifth straight year of recession (the economy contracted by 6.8 percent last year and is set to contract by another 4-6 percent this year) and a whopping 33 percent of the population has been thrown into poverty. Yet despite the staggering failure of austerity and reform to bring about recovery, Schäuble and his colleagues continue to force their extremely inhumane and anti-social shock therapy onto the peoples of Europe.

Schäuble disdainful remarks of Greece, in the meanwhile, have shaken the basic foundations of transnational solidarity supposed to underlie the project of European integration. In a total aberration of the facts (Greek public spending is actually below the EU average, and the Greeks work most of all people in the European Union), the Finance Minister blatantly stated that “ultimately, those to blame for the crisis are the Greek people themselves.”

Reuters reports: ”‘We have shown a lot of solidarity with Greece,’ Schaeuble said in response to some hostile questions from his audience about Germany’s approach to Greece’s debt crisis. ‘Everyone knows the real problems of Greek society are in Greece and not to be found abroad.’” But perhaps, as the influential commentator Wolfgang Münchau recently observed, there is a hidden agenda behind Schäuble’s Orwellian ‘solidarity’:

The German strategy seems to be to make life so unbearable that the Greeks themselves will want to leave the eurozone. Ms Merkel certainly does not want to be caught with a smoking gun in her hand. It is a strategy of assisted suicide, and one that is extremely dangerous and irresponsible.

Still, throughout their action, the protesters emphasized that the demonstration was not a personal attack against Schäuble. In its statement, the Collettivo Prezzemolo emphasized that “Schäuble is one of the main protagonists of the neoliberal right that is imposing the logic of austerity and cuts on the whole of Europe,” but the assault on Europe’s citizens is infinitely greater than the actions carried out by a single butcher. The problem, in the end, is structural.

This is why the protesters emphasized the need to come up with constructive alternatives to the relentless logic of financial markets, and the responsibility of academics to actively participate in a European public debate on the alternatives to austerity:

We refuse the ‘TINA’ narrative and its increasingly breathless mantra that “There Is No Alternative!”, we denounce neoliberal austerity as not neutral, but socially, politically and nationally partisan, and we claim the right and duty, as part of an academic community of social scientists, to engage in the collective task of finding alternative routes to a future based on social justice, democracy and equality, and to participate in the global struggle against the zombie neoliberalism that seeks to turn crisis into its own opportunity.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Alcoser March 8, 2012 at 00:30

Most Excellent actions and reporting!

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Tanja H. March 8, 2012 at 12:58

Brilliant action!!!

Ashamed greetings from Germany…

Tanja

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Jerome Roos March 8, 2012 at 16:30

Thanks Tanja! But there is no need to be ashamed of the people who do not represent you — resist in dignity and be proud of your ideals! We are all one!

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gineen March 8, 2012 at 15:49

Activists can write volumes of commentary about the world’s financial crisis. But to really understand the crisis, all you need to do is listen to the power elite for a few minutes. —What a collection of quotes!

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Andrew Stergiou March 8, 2012 at 16:40

Please never shoot bankers especially with malice as that can be misconstrued as premeditated murder, and good capitalist citizens merely take them prisoner after declaring martial law in the name of the people etc. find them guilty as a brief deliberation and executed them lawfully just like the military does.

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Karel Van Isacker March 9, 2012 at 12:15

A pity that all this rhetoric and prosaic verses ignore the very core problem of Greece: its kleptomaniac politicians and incompetent public servants who have ruined a country in 30 years time, and have created this mess, with the assistance it must be said of big investment “vulture” banks such as Goldman Sachs.
Blaming now those very people and countries that try to sort out the mess Greeks created and brought upon themselves is showing a total lack of understanding of the real causes behind this crisis.
Greek society is rotten to the very bone, and has shown no respect whatsoever to the weakest in their society (look at the very poor support for people with disabilities, etc.), and have done nothing else but taking advantage of the EU, etc. This was a tragedy in the making from the first minute Greece stepped into the EU, and even worse when it became a Euro member.
Greece has to go through this, and hope for and work towards a catharsis of the change of minds WITHIN Greece, starting with cleaning up their act altogether and getting rid of their corrupt and incompetent State apparatus. Then there is hope that Greece will prevail. But surely that will never happen…

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Andrew Stergiou July 1, 2012 at 18:27

Give me access to your life and find out what creepy nasty things I can say about you rather than the poor Greeks who work much more than you do!

Many people can be considered guilty but primarily it is the VULTURE BANKERS and their friends in government who have created these problems who president Obama and the governments of Europe continues to not prosecute as they obstruct prosecution.

Steal a apple and die in prison hungry, steal a nation of apples destroy peoples lives in the millions, get elected president and become appointed to be head of the World Bank.

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Efi March 19, 2012 at 18:03

Karen Van Isacker,
Please take a glimpse on this aspect of greek society here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=P9Ne4TgNWw0

In this video – i guess you will not see this on the news – you can see members of greek society trying to help other members of greek society during the latest big protest held in Athens. They are asking police for help and getting gas treatment.
So please, now answer to me who is rotten, according to you?Is it the members of greek society or policemen following goverment’ s order?

Last but not least, members of greek society do help people with disabilities in everyday life, when needed. GOVERMENT – not an elected one, right now – is cutting down funds for disabled people.

Greece IS going through this.

P.S.
Greek society does not consist only of politicians and incompetent public servants. There are also workers, farmers, shop-owners, teachers, nurses, clerks, fishermen and many many others.

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