The year 2020 will not be remembered as the period when northern and southern Europe lived in harmony. When the approval of the reconstruction plan that should lay the foundations for recovery in the EU enters its key phase, the Dutch weekly Elsevier Weekblad has turned its last cover into an argument against the idea of risk-sharing. "Not a penny more for southern Europe", the publication titles, with a circulation of about 66,000 copies.
However, the most striking thing is not the phrase that heads it, but the images. On top of it, representing Nordic citizens, a blond-haired man and woman work with obvious symptoms of effort and sacrifice. She running carrying a bag. He moving a gear with a gigantic wrench. Meanwhile, down below, characterizing those from southern countries with dark hair and tanned skin, a man with an exotic mustache drinks wine and coffee with his arms wrapped around his head, and a woman is distracted by her social media in a bikini.
The reactions have been virulent. The image ran on social networks generating thousands of critical comments, and alternative versions circulated in which they can be seen occupying the opposite roles: southern citizens working hard while the Nordics toast in the sun with flip flops and socks and signs of having burned the Piel, a possible nod to the hundreds of thousands of emigrants from southern countries settled in the north for work reasons, and to the Nordic tourists who travel to the beaches of Spain, Italy or Greece every year.
Beyond the cartoon, the controversy has even leaped into real politics. The far-right formation Frattelli d'Italia has asked Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio to summon the Dutch ambassador to Rome to demand immediate apologies. And in the Netherlands, where there is debate about whether or not the country should support the ambitious reconstruction plan approved by Brussels this week, the cover has also come in for criticism and has been branded as racist.
In Portugal they have turned the cover of the Dutch magazine full of prejudices ... Migrants who run in the north while the southern beaches are filled with cherubs. Work of Insónias de carvâo. pic.twitter.com/9tb34dTAue- Bernardo de Miguel (@BernardodMiguel) May 29, 2020
Among the ordinary citizens of the country of tulips there are those who declare a certain satiety about the back and forth battle between their country and the southern states, one stereotyped as unsupportive and the other as lazy. "It only benefits politicians who evoke the external enemy so that people do not pay as much attention to their failings," estimates a resident of Amsterdam who spent several years living in Spain.
The background does not help calm the waters. The ex-president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, caused an earthquake when he affirmed that the inhabitants of the south were spending the money "on wine and women to later ask for help." And more recently, the Dutch Minister of Finance, Wopke Hoekstra, was involved in another controversy from which he tried to leave apologizing, after suggesting, with the pandemic causing hundreds of deaths every day, that Brussels should investigate countries that do not they had kept sufficient reserves in good times, referring to Spain and Italy. Hoekstra thus became for a few days a villain for southern Europe. And the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, in his counterpart when he described his statements as "repugnant".
The cover of the Elsevier Weekblad has already had a direct reply from Portugal. The artist Insónias em Carvão has published a tweet in which he writes "Chupa, Elsevier Weekblad " and attaches an illustration in which he places citizens of the south working and the Dutch sunbathing on the beach with flip flops and socks.
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