Germany’s Two Faces

Back in May I wrote the following response to regular commenter Alexei K. under a post about Germany under Angela Merkel:

I think she’s presided over some serious economic skulduggery and corruption, the VW emissions scandal being just the tip of the iceberg. I think Germany has happily taken on the role of the economic engine of the EU, as it allows it to ensure the economic structure and interests of the EU are perfectly aligned with those of Germany. The entire Euro project appears to have been set up to ensure poor European countries could magically afford German products (mainly cars), and Germany’s treatment of Greece a couple of years ago showed exactly how Germany sees the rest of Europe. I think there is a prevailing attitude around the EU that what is good for German companies is good for Germany, and what is good for Germany is good for the EU. German companies have been given a free-hand in writing much of the industrial legislation (particularly environmental stuff) imposed by the EU on the whole bloc, and stuff like corruption (Siemens), dodgy financial dealings (Porsche takeover of VW), and emissions cheating are all ignored in favour of German corporate giants (it seems to fall to non-EU governments to complain).

I think there is a lot of rotten structure under Germany at the moment which everyone – particularly the EU lot – are turning a blind eye to. How robust is Deutschbank, for example? And would we be told if there was anything amiss? Merkel might be long-gone by the time all of this comes to light and unravels, but she’s presided over it and much of it will be deliberate policy not benign neglect.

Then today I came across this story:

Russia has delivered electricity turbines made by Germany’s Siemens to Crimea, a region subject to European Union sanctions barring EU firms from supplying it with energy technology, three sources with knowledge of the delivery told Reuters.

Reuters was unable to determine if Siemens knew of or condoned the equipment transfer, but the move exposes the German company to potential accusations of indirect sanctions-busting and of not taking sufficient safeguards to ensure its equipment does not end up on territory most countries view as illegally annexed, say legal experts.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Nor can I say I’m convinced by this:

“Siemens has not delivered turbines to Crimea and complies with all export control restrictions,” said Wolfram Trost, a spokesman for Siemens in Munich, when asked to confirm the turbine transfer to Crimea.

Citing client confidentiality, he did not answer written questions asking whether Siemens was aware that the turbines had been shipped to Crimea and whether it would now be activating or servicing them.

It wouldn’t be the first time Siemens has engaged in dodgy practices overseas, would it?

EU sanctions bar European individuals and companies from providing energy technology to Crimea or from taking any actions designed to circumvent those rules due to the bloc’s view that the peninsula was illegally stolen from Ukraine.

When asked about the matter, the European Commission has declined to comment on the Siemens case in the past, saying it is up to EU member states to enforce sanctions rules on their companies.

When asked about the issue on Wednesday, a spokesman for German’s Ministry for Economic Affairs said he had no immediate comment.

Now there’s a surprise! What was I saying about a prevailing attitude in the EU whereby what is good for German companies is good for Germany, and what is good for Germany is good for the EU? Nothing to see here, obviously.

As I said before, I think this is merely the tip of a very large iceberg. Streetwise Professor recently wrote a post on Germany preaching European unity in one breath while stitching up eastern Europe in the next in order to preserve their commercial interests with Russia. It’s worth reading in full, and thoroughly consistent with the Reuters findings.

Share

13 thoughts on “Germany’s Two Faces

  1. A German friend once told me that Germany was much more corrupt than I would have guessed. A typical British fault, he said, because British levels of corruption were pretty trivial as far as he could see.

  2. I am watching with interest the scramble by the Germans and most other European nations for that matter in their frantic dash for Iranian cash. All the big German and French car brands are well in and now with Total signing up the slush gates are open, all of this on top of the Airbus deal, it seems very much like a gold rush is well and truly on.

    The most interesting part is that any of this is taking place at all, the good guys selling within an Axis of Evil nation? especially with the US and Israel still very much on target for regime change in Iran. The Qatar split looks like its now locked in as well aligning them with Iran, its seems like it’s only the UK that is not partaking.

    What the hell it all means, I don’t know, but someone does.

  3. @Bardon

    Good point- my mob are now talking with the Iranians. Interestingly, there’s a lot of our comp[editors who are barr4ed (by the Iranians) from talking with them.

    Turns out a great many companies were paid to do work, delayed commencing it, the sanctions arrived, and they then kept the cash….

  4. The most interesting part is that any of this is taking place at all, the good guys selling within an Axis of Evil nation? especially with the US and Israel still very much on target for regime change in Iran.

    Yeah, the Europeans are falling over themselves to get into Iran, but a lot of it smacks of desperation to access a new market (they’re not going to be buying much themselves, are they? Greece, anyone?)

    What will trip them up is when they’ve committed a load of money and the US slaps the sanctions back on. It’s not that the Europeans companies will be banned, but they’ll not be able to use any US product – including Blackberries, iPhones, or MS-Windows – in their dealings with Iran, and if so much as a dollar bill somehow slips through the associated accounts…look out!

  5. Assuming you’re right (I have only seen anecdotal evidence, not even up to the preponderance of evidence standard used in civil litigation), I don’t see anything unusual about the attitude or the associated hypocrisy imputed to the Germans. They are in good company. “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” is a misquote, but back in the country’s golden age (as seen from some quarters today), in the 1950s, a good deal of influential Americans as well as their foreign adversaries accepted the claim as obvious. It’s only when it morphed, for public consumption, into “what’s good for democracy worldwide is good for America” that layer upon layer of hypocrisy was required to plaster up the gap. Likewise, the British Empire was built by the great chartered companies but did not shrink from the liberty, Christianity and burden of the white man rhetoric to justify its conquests.

    The problem with the Germans is, rather, a lack of flexibility to run a decent empire (nor does America has learned the lessons of the BE but it doesn’t really need an empire anyway) and to make its corporate majors clean up their act (in contrast to the US). Also, the Germans are not so virtuosic at hypocrisy as the British were in their heyday.

    Perhaps this Siemens story (if it’s not made up) simply shows that the company and the country have accepted that Crimea is not returning under Ukrainian rule any time soon and that Germany will have to work with Russia no matter what. Not an unreasonable assumption, whatever one thinks of the current Kremlin regime. Likewise, the grownups realize that Iran is the second-largest country in the Middle East, a genuine one at that (unlike Iraq, Syria and the kingdoms of the Gulf), and miles ahead of number one, Egypt, in terms of human development. The risk is worth taking.

  6. I don’t see anything unusual about the attitude or the associated hypocrisy imputed to the Germans.

    Absolutely not. But let’s call hypocrisy out where we see it, regardless of whether it’s unusual or not.

    Also, the Germans are not so virtuosic at hypocrisy as the British were in their heyday.

    Perhaps not, but what has this got to do with the situation today?

    Perhaps this Siemens story (if it’s not made up) simply shows that the company and the country have accepted that Crimea is not returning under Ukrainian rule any time soon and that Germany will have to work with Russia no matter what.

    Fine: Germany can submit its proposals for ending the sanctions and recognising Russia’s rule over the peninsula any time it likes. Currently their behaviour is like that of the French and Russians at the UN when they repeatedly voted for sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq while doing deals with him under the table.

    Likewise, the grownups realize that Iran is the second-largest country in the Middle East, a genuine one at that (unlike Iraq, Syria and the kingdoms of the Gulf), and miles ahead of number one, Egypt, in terms of human development.

    I have no problem with that, but grownups aren’t what I’d use to describe people who are happy to do business with Iran but scream the house down when Trump says something they think inappropriate.

  7. There is no honour among thieves or businesses. As they say, follow the money and if Russia and Iran (and indeed any ‘pariah’ state’) has it to spare then guess what?

    One small thing: the west ‘hated’ Russia because it wouldn’t adopt western moral views, especially over homosexuality. But they don’t have to: what we do is not what they have to do. But we would like cash please for our goods and services.

  8. Of course it’s a German racket. Just wait for the euro to break up. Deutchmark goes up like a rocket, franc, lira, peseta etc go down like a stick. At some point the Germans are going to have to make the choice: support ClubMed with real money or have their economy blow up.

  9. Have posted many times on Merkel being in thrall to the Bruderheist – no one comes to power there without them. Example is Bertelsmann.

  10. Enquiring minds might like to draw up a graph showing manufacturing output from the introduction of the Euro in 2002 to today and see which one country has surged ahead at the expense of the other Eurozone members.
    The future of the EU will not be determined by BREXIT but when France wakes up to the fact that it is continuing to run at a deficit while Germany runs a surplus.

  11. At some point the Germans are going to have to make the choice: support ClubMed with real money or have their economy blow up.

    They are gradually tightening their grip via the EU Commission.

    Member States’ budgets have to be approved by the Commission.

    For the foreseeable future, they will increasingly direct the EU.

    France is content to hump Germany’s leg, if Germany pretends to respect it

    With Brexit imminent, they are pushing for an integrated EU army and have started the move to allocate funds to it from the EU budget.

    It is as if they cannot help themselves and at some level I doubt that their analysis is rational- National Character, and all that

    In the meantime, of course, they accelerated what will sooner or later cause mass unrest in Member States- largely unchecked migration of uneducated Africans and Asians into Europe- and have shown no leadership in trying to address the problem.

  12. None of which is good for NATO, which makes it look like the Russians are winning.

  13. The whole Euro project helps the Germans (and maybe the French a little) with the perennially poor countries keeping the Euro weak so the strong manufacturing states can export like crazy. so Germany remains prosperous on the back of these countries. This would work if they had some sort of fiscal union as well – in Australia Tasmania and South Australia are mendicant basket cases but are propped up with taxes from the states that work, Germany won’t bail out Greece with a cash transfer but Greece can’t devalue it’s currency to attempt to become competitive so will always remain the poor relation.

Comments are closed.