‘The demons are only sleeping’: Luxembourg PM paints chilling portrait of Europe as he draws parallels with build up to WW1
- Jean-Claude Juncker: ‘WW1 demons are not banished’
- Says Bosnia wars were ‘chillingly’ similar to early 1900s
- Highlights current anti-Germany sentiment in Europe
By Allan Hall
PUBLISHED: 11:45 EST, 11 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:18 EST, 11 March 2013
One of Europe’s most prominent statesmen has warned that resentment of Germany across the continent is so high that war remained a danger.
Jean Claude Juncker, a long-time president of the European Council, painted an ominous portrait of Europe, claiming there ‘chilling’ parallels in 2013 with 100 years ago – the eve of the First World War.
He said the eurozone crisis had exposed long-standing tensions between countries.
Mr Juncker, 58, who is also prime minister of Luxembourg, stopped short of saying that war was on the horizon but warned: ‘The demons haven’t been banished; they are merely sleeping.’
Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, he said, remind us of that and he said he was ‘chilled by the realization of how similar circumstances in Europe in 2013 are to those of 100 years ago.’
In June 1914 the heir-apparent of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated along with his wife in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, setting in motion the political and military alliances which dragged Europe into the greatest war ever seen.
By the end of it, three empires – including that which Ferdinand was to inherit – had vanished and ten million soldiers were dead, the continent ruined and exhausted with the way clear for the Nazis to come to power in Germany.
Now with Europe wracked in a financial crisis seemingly without end, in which societies are being pushed to the brink as the middle classes are squeezed, Mr Juncker says he is shocked by the rise of nationalist sentiments seen in countries like Greece and Italy, both hurting under severe austerity measures.
He said he was deeply upset by the way German politicians ‘lashed out’ at Greece as it went broke, adding; ‘I was just as shocked by the banners of protesters in Athens that showed the German chancellor in a Nazi uniform.
‘Sentiments suddenly surfaced that we thought had been finally relegated to the past. The Italian election was also excessively anti-German and thus un-European.
‘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.’
In an interview with Germany’s Spiegel Magazine he said the continent wasn’t yet manning the barricades, but added; ‘I see obvious parallels with regard to people’s complacency. In 1913, many people believed that they would never again be a war in Europe.
‘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.
‘Primarily in Western and Northern Europe, there was a complete sense of complacency based on the assumption that peace had been secured forever.’
He said only a united Europe was a safe and strong Europe. ‘A united Europe is our Continent’s only chance to avoid falling off the world’s radar,’ he added. ‘The heads of government of Germany, France and the United Kingdom also know that their voice is only heard internationally because they speak through the megaphone of the European Union.’
Mr Juncker, who will campaign again next year to be the leader of his country once more, said he is backing Germany’s conservative chancellor Angela Merkel in her bid for a third term of office in the general election in the autumn.
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