Wariness on streets of eurozone over Greek crisis

Germans mindful of their own stumbling economy seem unwilling to rush to the aid of debt-laden Greece.

Wariness on streets of eurozone over Greek crisis

Germans mindful of their own stumbling economy seem unwilling to rush to the aid of debt-laden Greece, and any easy fix for Athens might gall the Irish, already paying for past laxness.

In countries such as Spain, in more immediate danger of following Athens into crisis, sympathy for Greece's economic plight and social turmoil appears to run somewhat higher.

The divergent views emerged in street interviews in several countries, a day after European Union leaders pledged political support for Greece at a Brussels summit but failed to present a concrete rescue plan.

"You have to be cruel to be kind," said Patrick Carroll, a pensioner waiting at a Dublin bus station. "I think they have to go the same way as the Irish."

Following its worst ever recession, Ireland cut public sector pay as part of wider spending cuts in December's budget. While there has been public criticism, there have been no demonstrations of the kind seen in Athens. Public acceptance of austerity measures has helped Irish financial markets perform better than those of other heavily indebted euro zone members.

An Emnid poll showed that 71 percent of Germans asked were opposed to financial aid for Greece. Only 25 percent were ready to help with German taxpayers' money.

"Today countries don't suffer from individual problems, everything is linked up," said Mario von Au, 42, a lawyer.

"However, if we promise things too quickly, perhaps it will take the motivation away from Greece to tighten its belt."

Gerhard Rieger, 72, a retired craftsman from Berlin, grew up during Germany's post-war 'economic miracle', when a strong Deutsche Mark currency symbolised national security.

"I do not support Germany helping Greece...They need to do it on their own and to learn. For Germany's own citizens, money is tight," Rieger said, reflecting a sense that Germany has worked hard to keep its deficit under control.

Many western Germans, having subsidised the rebuilding of the former communist east for two decades, object to the idea of bailing out another European country.

Figures released on Friday showed German economic growth unexpectedly halting in the final quarter of 2009, while Italy went into reverse.

In Spain, the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero faces strong pressure for deep public spending cuts and threats of widespread strikes from trade unions that threaten to push the country down the same path as Greece. "It's a good idea that Spain and the EU help out Greece as everyone needs to stand together through this. If we all help out each other we'll get through the crisis," said Ana Maldonado, a Spanish civil servant."Spain is ruined too, so maybe we'll need the help soon too!"

In France, a country more used to state intervention and support, there was also a higher degree of sympathy for Greece, at least among some on the streets.

"The European Union was created for countries to help one another...they need to help each other before it's too late," said Nadine Assal, 21, a student. "But the problem is if every country helps countries that are in difficulty, it looks like we are rewarding the bad students."

Reuters

Last Mod: 13 Şubat 2010, 11:41
Add Comment