Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ode on a Grecian Loan

Mykonos by Pants

As the German newspaper editors said to each other, please pass the schadenfreude and make sure it's icy. The Bild editorial team have composed a letter to Greek Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou offering some kindly advice on Teutonic-style fiscal prudence and social order to help him over his cashflow woes.

It's not been a good week for Mr Papandreou who is tapping Greece's European 'friends' for a loan at slightly better rates than he might get from Shylock or the IMF. A reasonable strategy you might think, but with one tiny flaw. He forgot that old diplomatic chestnut of avoiding mention of 'the war'. Sadly for him, Greek VP, Theodoros Pangalos had to bring up that irksome Nazi looting business. The Germans are notoriously sensitive about that stuff. German ministers were clearly not amused as they've suggested flogging off some islands, historic buildings and ancient artefacts to pay the debt. Right back at ya Achilles, says Bild, we'll have Corfu and the Acropolis.

The letter begins with a litany of rebuke, just so the Prime Minister is clear that all that profligate, jovial plate smashing was always going to end in tears,

Here, people work until they're 67. There is no longer a 14-month salary for civil servants.

Here, nobody needs to pay a thousand-euro bribe to get a hospital bed in time.

And we don't pay pensions for the generals' daughters who sadly can't find husbands.

In this country, the petrol stations have cash registers, the taxi drivers give receipts and the farmers don't swindle EU subsidies with millions of olive trees that don't exist.

When you escape to the Mediterranean from the freezer belt of Northern Europe for a few thawing holiday weeks, it's easy to envy the people who get to live like this all year round. That they spend at least half a day eating and lying down. That they get paid for thirteen or even fourteeen months of the year when they work a total of three, at best. That they can drink all night because no one expects to see them in the morning until at least ten. That they don't have to dig snow and spend half their monthly income on taxes and heating.

It's only natural to cheer just a little when sturm und drang finally arrive to pay an overdue visit to a wanton neighbour. And it doesn't do any harm to toss in a little reminder that Germany isn't the only place with a shameful military past. Let's not forget who had the most recent romance with juntaism now. And the corruption! Don't go thinking you're a first world economy now so-called cradle of civilisation. You may have invented democracy but we're not seeing a lot of practising what we preach right now are we? And now for a little tutorial on Lutheran methodology,

Germany also has high debts - but we can meet them.

That's because we get up reasonably early and work all day. Because in good times we always spare a thought for the bad times. Because we have good firms whose products are in demand around the world.

I've experienced first hand the German zeal to get up before everyone else and nab all the sun loungers on a cruise ship. They are organised, man. Immediately on arrival they devise a rota system where they take it in turns to secure the loungers for the whole group. They run a tight ship, although probably a bit at odds with the concept of 'holiday'.

Not wishing to appear ungenerous, Bild offers to loan Greece the national hair shirt,

We want to be friends with the Greeks. That's why since joining the euro, Germany has given your country 50bn euros.

The letter ends on a sweet conciliatory note,

PS In case you want to write back, we have enclosed a stamped addressed envelope. Of course, we want to help you to save...

I'm thinking freigeld? nein doch!