Sunday 18 February 2018

Bruno Waterfield: Europe might be in crisis, but Germans are more interested in Christmas shopping

F Europe is on the brink of an economic catastrophe; it certainly did not feel like it among the revellers who flocked at the weekend to the Christmas market on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has issued dire warnings that the euro crisis poses an "existential" threat for peace and prosperity, tearing down the global economy and the Continent’s nation states with it. Now, ahead of this week’s make-or-break summit in Brussels, the rest of Europe is looking to the Germans to ride to the rescue.

But the mood was not so much pessimistic as hedonistic among Berliners taking time out from their shopping to relax with a warming glass of Gluhwein in the cold rain. “We don’t want to talk about the eurozone crisis. We are here for the shops and now it’s time to get drunk. We don’t want to talk about all that bloody crisis stuff,” cried a group of women, sentiments that raised a cheer on tables nearby. In fact, among the shoppers, the international pressure pushing Germany into a historical leadership role that its people do not want seems more likely to generate resentment and feelings of injustice than anything else.

Veronica Kampf, 20, a student from Munster, mingled with the crowds dressed as Santa Claus to hand out chocolates and leaflets. A Christian campaigner, she was there with other young people from Papenburg’s Josua church to talk to consumers about the real message of Christmas. “It’s not fair that we Germans are always asked to save the world. It’s stupid and it is everyone’s responsibility, not just Germany’s. We already pay enough taxes” she said. “I’m more concerned that some people are more interested in Coca-Cola and shopping than knowing what Christmas is really about than this crisis.”

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