What a moving, annoying and impressive thing is this thing we call Europe. Those currently in Athens or on one of the enchanting islands have caught them at a low point as they watch the natives arguing under the plane trees or see them trying to put on a brave face. Given the chance you would like to go up to them and say: "Hey, I'm from Germany and we'll get through this."
It's both touching and unprecedented how the eighteen other EU states have, again and again, got on with providing aid for five years. And, more recently, how they've dealt with the fate of eleven million Greek people for the last five months. Of course, this wasn't without its problems at the start but then Europe attended an intensive course on Greece. The German government has even spent more time looking after Greece this Summer than Germany and the chancellor, who held certain prejudices at the outbreak of the crisis, is so well-read on the subject of Greece that she could herself even join the Greek government. It's hard to believe that Europe could be any closer, intense or even feel more solidarity at this point.
All that being true, Europe is so exasperating. Instead of seeing its own respectable and honourable qualities, it has some morbid desire to play itself down; so much so it has left one person fuming. From the left to the right, from the Economist to the socialist newspaper Neuen Deutschland, talk of "failure" and "collapse" is rife as many are already predicting the beginning of the end of the EU. First Greece will leave, Britain will follow, then Le Pen will win, then Putin will take Mariupol, and then … and then ... What's strange is how many relish the apocalypse as if the European people, who are currently the subject of all this talk, are not even there or will never work this out saying "you only want to keep the UK in the EU because Greece could drop out" or "the only reason you're not voting for Le Pen is because she is fraternising with Putin."
The depressing discussion just adds to the ideological side of things. Instead of treating Greece as the exceptional case it truly is, it's been exploited as the parade ground for left- or right-wing economic policy, for austerity versus Keynesianism. All of those who don't push ahead at home – either with pure neoliberalism or a policy of printing money and incurring debts-, see themselves as ideological colonists who are trying to conquer the Greek islands. Even worse are those who believed that with Greece they had found the lever which could shift the direction of eurozone economic policy. The resigned finance minister Yanis Varoufakis can count himself among those who didn't want to do it 'for' Greece but rather 'with' Greek policy.
By the end the ideological discussion had been poisoned and contaminated by the fear of ruin.
In order to measure just how absurd this destructive self-image is, we should consider looking at the other extreme. In the last half a century it's been quite incredible the chaos brought about by the US in the Middle East. They have made countless errors and now stand on the brink of disaster; however by comparison, the Greek crisis is no more than a child's halloween party. And? Are they wearing sackcloth and ashes? Has it been described as a historic failure? Have they given the impression that their mission in world history has failed? Hardly. There is some condemnation from the Republicans towards the Democrats and vice versa, but otherwise the line simply goes: let's move on to pastures new – disenchanted but with no hint of remorse. You might see this as unpleasant but politically it's extraordinarily healthy.
In the last five years the EU has more or less successfully handled the financial and debt crisis coming out of America, with the exception of just one small EU country who hasn't managed to overcome it yet. And? Is anyone here proud? Does anyone see it as proof of the ability of national governments to improvise or that the EU institutions – in general – are functioning? Not a chance. The EU and its citizens cannot comprehend nor find the words to describe the union's strengths - unless it diligently stays on its preset and planned institutional and legal course.