Thursday, March 14, 2013

War in Europe?

(European Politicians, Robin Hood Tax/Flickr)
The Luxembourg Prime Minister, and until last January Euro Group Chief, Jean Claude Juncker (also known as Mr. Euro during his eight year tenure as Euro Group Chief and informal head of the Euro monetary Union) has unnecessarily stirred the pot of European politics in a recent interview about the situation in Europe in the German magazine Der Spiegel, "The Demons Haven't Been Banished"

Upon Der Spiegel's statement, "You're exaggerating. No one today seriously doubts peace and friendship in Europe.", he responded as follows:

"That's true. But 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. The demons haven't been banished; they are merely sleeping, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have shown us. I am chilled by the realization of how similar circumstances in Europe in 2013 are to those of 100 years ago"

Once this statement reached the outside world, many media reacted, for example:

The Huffington Post headlined with:

"Jean Claude Juncker, Luxembourg Prime Minister, Warns European "Demons" May Return"

The British Mail Online:

"Anti-German anger "could lead to a war": EU chief warns currency crisis has exposed "chilling" parallels with WWI"

The EU Observer:

"Europe still has 'sleeping war demons'"

The statements by Juncker are very disappointing for a politician who has been prime minister of Luxembourg since 1995 and has been a leading public official in the European Union. Someone with his experience should understand  the importance of words, and how words can be used to manipulate people and public moods. Followers of Neuro Linguistic Programming also understand the importance of words, as in the well known example of "don't think of a pink elephant." In such a case it's hard not to think of a pink elephant. Similarly, on March 30, 1981 when President Reagan was shot, then Secretary of State Alexander Haig made an infamous statement at the time that "he was in control" and there was no reason to "panic." His demeanor and statement, however, were evidence of panic, rather than the opposite. Political and military leaders - Haig was both - should know better. Using a word or even negating a word, does not mean that it has no influence on people's perceptions. Exactly the opposite is the case: don't think of panic and you think of panic; don't think of war and you think of war.

Back to Juncker: he should have known that refering to parallels with WW I is inviting the possibility of disaster. I'm not saying that Juncker should close his eyes for the reality of tensions in Europe, but actively mentioning the demons of war in a major press interview, is inviting them into the current public discourse, and who knows what's next. Question is then: is the experienced Juncker unaware of the power of language or is he playing dangerous games?

The last question by Der Spiegel may shed some light on this, when it asks Juncker:"During the upcoming election campaign, do you intend to quote Merkel's oft-cited comment: "If the euro fails, Europe fails"?"

Juncker's answers:

"During our religious instruction in school, we always asked: How can one prove the existence of God? And I have learned that the Catholic Church, which is never at a loss for an answer when it comes to existential questions, responds as follows: This question simply does not arise. The question of whether the euro will survive does not arise either and, consequently, I won't even attempt a theoretical answer to your question about the German chancellor's comment."

Juncker's answer shows that it's good riddance for Europe that mr.Juncker no longer has an official role in the Euro zone. To equate the man-made Euro with a religious belief is evidence of a serious flaw in his thinking. So, maybe he indeed does not understand the power of  language, or does this polictician who has played a leading role within Europe for nearly two decades know something we don't?


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