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GREEK CRISIS

ANGELA MERKEL

Schäuble loses cool in Greek war of words

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble boiled over in comments about the Greek government late on Monday night, even as there was news that Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to reset relations by inviting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Berlin.

Schäuble loses cool in Greek war of words
Photo: DPA

“They've destroyed all trust. It's a serious setback,” Schäuble said in Berlin.

He added that he didn't know anyone in the international institutions who understood what Athens was planning, and accused the radical-left Syriza government there of lying to their citizens.

Schäuble himself has been the target of repeated verbal sallies by members of the Greek government, while calls for Germany to pay reparations for war crimes committed during the Nazi occupation of the country have grown.

Tsipras' visit to Berlin next Monday is intended to calm the waters between the two countries, as the Prime Minister steps forward to negotiate in place of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

He will also square off against Merkel and his other Eurozone creditors at a meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned at a meeting with the Greek deputy Foreign Minister Nikos Chountis that the Greek government should not try to depict its problems as simply an argument with Germany.

“I implored him to work towards us having the possibility of speaking about proposals from the Greek government,” he said in Brussels on Tuesday.

Left parties open to reparations

Now even members of German political parties agree that some restitution should be made.

Gesine Schwan, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) values committee, told Der Spiegel that “it would be good from the German side if we sweep in front of our own door.

“It's about recognizing that we committed grave injustices in Greece,”

But SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner argued that “we shouldn't couple the question of reparations with the current debate over the Euro crisis.”

The SPD were joined by the Green party, with parliamentary leader Anton Hofreiter arguing that “Germany can't simply sweep the demands from Greece off the table.”

“This chapter isn't closed either morally or legally,” he added.

Greece's claims

Greece argues that Germany owes it on two fronts.

The first is a loan of 476 million Reichsmarks forcibly extracted from the country by the Nazis in 1942, and now valued at between €8 billion and €11 billion.

Nazi atrocities such as the Distomo Massacre, where SS troops murdered 218 women, children and old people in 1944, have also left lingering resentment and demands for compensation, despite a payment of 115 million Marks in the 1960s.

Varoufakis still defiant

Meanwhile Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis took to Twitter to defend himself against allegations that he raised his middle finger to Germany before taking office.

The gesture was taken out of context, he argues, as it formed part of an hour-long lecture he gave in 2013 about the early days of the financial crisis in May 2010 – before Greece owed Germany any money at all.

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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