The Brief, powered by Yara – Fear and stereotype

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The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel always publishes on Saturdays and it recently made headlines worldwide because of its series of covers ridiculing Donald Trump. This week, it made headlines again, but in a very controversial way.

On the menu was Italy. The cover showed a hangman’s noose attached to a spaghetti fork, and it followed an opinion piece published 24 May in Spiegel Online.

This opinion piece, entitled “Rome scroungers”, asked the question of how to call a country who finance their dolce far niente lifestyle with the money of others.

“The beggar at least says thank you when you fill his bag”, the piece said, insisting that no respectable nation should ask for help if it can help itself.

The outcry in Germany was quick in coming, and it was huge.

So much so that Spiegel’s online editor Barbara Hans felt obliged to tell Italian press agency Ansa that “Der Spiegel columnist’s piece on “Rome scroungers“ does not reflect the German weekly’s official view,” adding that the columns written by Jan Fleischhauer were “provocative and conservative as a rule“.

“German eurozone discourse out of control,” replied  Wolfgang Munchau in a tweet, director of Eurointelligence and a Financial Times and Corriere della Sera columnist.

Was eine Arroganz” tweeted German journalist Moritz Seyffarth, who covers economics affairs for the daily Die Welt.

“A terrible way to polarise Europe. Distasteful cover of Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s most important papers. Be assured: this is certainly not the view of the majority of Germans!” tweeted Marcel Fratzscher, a professor of macroeconomics at Humboldt University and president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), one of the leading economic research institutes in the country.

“We Germans must not be surprised if other Europeans think we are arrogant and presumptuous. Provocation is important to the media, but it should not be disrespectful. I think this cover is overdrawn,” he added in another tweet.

Fear and stereotype are behind Spiegel’s cover and the opinion piece: the first being that German taxpayers have to finance crisis-ridden southern European countries.

The second is based on the assumption that people in the south of Europe work far less than their northern counterparts, meaning – again – that German taxpayers will have to finance some kind of southern dolce vita with their hard-earned money.

However, one can argue the Spiegel cover and column fit with Germany’s current European discourse: a policy of small steps instead of an ambitious safety plan à la Macron. To make sure German money is not being wasted on a far niente lifestyle.

This state of mind has been aptly summarised by a Brussels-based German banker, who agreed with Merkel’s statement on Europe:

“Contrary to Macron’s €200 billion investment plan, Merkel rather aims at supporting structurally and technology-weak EU countries with small-scale fundings. This is good, it will bring the different European countries closer together and in this way trigger economic growth throughout the different regions in Europe”.

The bank representative described Merkel’s suggestions as “balanced in the content” and said they should act as a major door opener towards a reform of the monetary union.

Do you care about the air you breathe ? Ammonia volatilisation is an environmental burden, for which simple solutions are readily available. Smart farming combined with nitrate-based fertilisers like AN or CAN is one of the easiest ways to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture in Europe.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Merkel’s weekend interview continues to haunt the EU. In the run-up to the June summit, the Commission hailed similarities  between her eurozone proposals and its own.

But experts are calling for haste, as the ‘window of opportunity’ for EU reform might close soon. But the French shake their head about the ‘typical Merkel’, who practices progress at a snail’s pace.

Silly season can begin in earnest, now that EU energy chief Maroš Šefčovič declared his candidacy for the top Commission job. The Slovak Commissioner promised to ease tensions between western states and newer members.

Today is World Environment Day, and to coincide, a landmark UN report on plastic pollution shows that governments across the world are starting to take action.

Curbing plastic waste should also go hand-in-hand with cutting emissions, according to another study, which reveals that a fully-functioning circular economy could do a lot of the brunt work for us.

While EU interior ministers try to break a two-year deadlock over reforming asylum rules, their justice counterparts are divided over a proposal for police access to real-time data.

Alcohol and cigarettes are high on the EU’s agenda: While trying to balance the fine line between brands and health, the WHO and the EU clash with the tobacco industry over plain packaging effectiveness. Also, the EU’s health chief is not satisfied with the alcohol industry’s labelling proposal.

A solution to the Macedonian name dispute could be in trouble, especially since Greece’s opposition leader started aping Viktor Orbán’s “foreign powers” rhetoric.

Apparently our report yesterday was an “interpretation” of the Hungarian leader and EPP-member’s views, according to reports in Skopje. But we would argue that it was just what he said…

Look out for…

Jean-Claude Juncker receives Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Brussels.  Maybe the latter can share some insights into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mindset after he dropped by in Vienna for a short visit.

Views are the author‘s                                                                                                


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