Europe's 'demons are sleeping' warns Juncker: is he right?
Prime Minister of Luxembourg is accused of scaremongering for political purposes
ONE of Europe's most senior statesman says he fears the eurozone financial crisis is reawakening the continent's historical "demons", raising the spectre of another war in Europe.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, said he was "chilled" by the similarities between the Europe of 1913 – on the eve of World War I - and today.
Juncker, a former president of the Eurogroup, made up of eurozone finance ministers, made the comments in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel.
He expressed concern that the eurozone crisis had led to the return of a "regional and national mindset" and cited anti-German propaganda during the Greek and Italian elections and attacks in the other direction from some German politicians.
"The demons haven't been banished; they are merely sleeping," he warned. "Sentiments suddenly surfaced that we thought had been finally relegated to the past... Anyone who believes that the eternal issue of war and peace in Europe has been permanently laid to rest could be making a monumental error."
Juncker said he was not predicting conflict but said he was concerned about "complacency" over the threat of war.
"In 1913, many people believed that there would never again be a war in Europe," he said. "The great powers of the continent were economically so strongly intermeshed that there was the widespread opinion that they could simply no longer afford to engage in military conflicts."
The situation, he suggested, is similar today.
The Daily Mail said he had "painted an ominous portrait" of Europe. However, The Times hinted that there could be a political motive behind the comments, which reflect "concern among federal-minded EU leaders over the populist backlash that has been stirred by the deepest economic slump since the Second World War".
The paper described Juncker as a "devout federalist" who supports Angela Merkel's re-election as Chancellor in Germany.
Others painted it as a cynical attempt to cow his opponents. "There have been waves of threats by eurozone politicians to bully people into accepting 'whatever it takes' to keep the shaky construct of the monetary union glued together," commented Wolf Richter of Business Insider magazine. "But now, the ultimate threat has been pronounced: war."
The Daily Telegraph quoted EU analyst Almut Moeller, who said Juncker was simply using historical imagery of war to underline the scale of the economic crisis.
"[Juncker] wants to sound a warning, that this is a big job for politicians," he told the paper. "What he means is, let’s try to understand that the military power of the past is now economic power."
Tim Rahmann, a commentator for the German business magazine Wirtshcafts Woche, wrote: "The comparison is absurd and dangerous."
He argued that in 1913 the British, French, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were "bursting with narcissism, self-importance and great power fantasies" and wars were often cheered. ·