Is a two-track Europe already here?
European leaders have long rejected the idea that the EU is developing into a region of haves and have-nots. But a look at the news today suggests it's happening just the same.
Paris — The question of a two-track Europe, or one that becomes a union of insiders and outsiders, of winners and losers, has loomed as the continent struggles out of its debt crisis.
The notion has been rejected by a host of European leaders and thinkers. But this week’s news in Europe already shows how well underway it already is.
Take the Europe page of the BBC’s website this morning.
One photo featured Greeks congregating for a strike, after their state broadcaster was unexpectedly shut down in a cost-savings measure. Another captured Germans congregating, but this time it is dignitaries in Berlin inaugurating the reconstruction of King Frederick the Great’s palace.
Greeks were caught off-guard after their public broadcaster ERT went black around midnight on Tuesday. The new anchor’s last words: “The riot police are moving toward the transmitters to switch them off.... This is official information we have.”
The move is the first of a series of planned closures this year in Greek institutions to reduce national debt and secure bailout funds from the EU.
ERT was founded in 1938 with an educational, non-commercial mission, writes our correspondent in Athens. For many rural Greeks, it’s the only channel they can access. But Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called ERT "the symbol of waste and lack of transparency.”
On the same day that Greeks woke up to find their state channel black, Germany’s President Joachim Gauck laid the first stone for the reconstruction project of what was once, as the BBC puts it, one of the world’s grandest buildings.
The rebuilding of King Frederick the Great's palace, which housed the kings of Prussia from 1701, will cost about 600 million euros funded largely by taxpayer money.
The façade of the opulent building, some of which dated to the 15th century, will be recreated, while inside the modern remake will preserve Germany’s cultural identity with pieces of art and other historic gems.
The building was damaged in World War II and then completely dynamited in 1950 by communists, who then rebuilt the Palace of the Republic.
The diverging fates of the continent have dismayed some. Greeks have angrily compared the rise of Germany today to the imbalances that grew in the 1930s. Many consider that unfair and historically wrong.
But as Germany is able in a positive way to recapture lost history from the 20th century, what Greeks are experiencing now is a more unfortunate echo of that era, at least in one way: It's the first time ERT has been off the air since World War II, points out the AP.
When Nazi troops marched into Greece's nearly deserted capital on April 27, 1941, radio announcer Costas Stavropoulos of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp. announced the grim news. He urged his countrymen and women not to listen to future Nazi radio transmissions and signed off with the Greek national anthem. It was the only time the state broadcaster — also known as ERT — had ceased to operate from its birth three years earlier. That is, until Tuesday, when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government shut ERT down and fired its 2,500 employees to prove to Greece's international lenders that he was serious about cutting the country's bloated public sector. Its TV and radio signals went dead early Wednesday.