Checking my emails at the beginning of June 2012 I found one sent by Südosteuropa Gesellschaft It was an invitation to participate in a forum with German and Greek journalists and introduce a panel on the role of the media during the current economic crisis. This forum would take place in Munich on 6 and 7 July 2012. Thanking the organisers, I accepted the kind invitation, noting that my current research at ELIAMEP as well as my forthcoming book: The Greek Drama in the Media are directly connected to the main theme of the Munich forum.
At the same time, however, I could not but be sceptical for the future of Greek-German relations. The need itself for the organisation of a conference with journalists from Greece and Germany confirms the existing misunderstanding between the two countries and can hardly be considered as positive for the project of European integration. Ironically, at the time I received the invitation by Südosteuropa Gesellschaft , I was participating in the Halki International Seminar of ELIAMEP aiming at facilitating co-operation between young journalists from Kosovo and Serbia!
In any case, we can’t go back in time. As Greek-German relations have already deteriorated, what we need to do is not only to look at the past and express our regret for their current status but also to systematically work on their improvement. This said the initiative of Südosteuropa Gesellschaft is a remarkable one. Difficult as it is it can certainly provide a basis for an open dialogue between representatives of the two countries who have played an important role since October 2009.
There is no question that the media in both sides have sometimes exaggerated in their coverage. But their impact has specific limits. In my view, political elites are the driving force behind the current ‘hostility’. On the one hand, Greek politicians seem to prefer agreeing to things imposed from abroad for which they can then shift the blame, rather than coming up with a domestic agenda for which they take ownership and responsibility. And, on the other one, German politicians have been ready to push for solutions and then shove responsibility onto the Greeks.
I am almost sure that if German and Greek politicians start to closely cooperate and – in the case of the Hellenic Republic – deliver, the media will follow. My understanding after taking part in the Munich forum is that journalists from both sides are prepared to work together while some of them have already started to do so. Nevertheless, their job is to cover the news. In so doing, they are naturally encountered – almost every day – with factors such as the credibility deficit of Greek politicians and the insistence of German ones on almost unrealistic targets. This is the key finding of the fruitful dialogue held in Munich under the auspices of Südosteuropa Gesellschaft.