Jeremy Hobson: Two of the key figures in the European debt crisis are meeting today in Berlin. One is the borrower — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreaou. The other is the lender — German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The subject is the crucial next round of bailout funding for Greece. Merkel said today whatever Germany can do, it will do. But with 80 percent of the German population against bailouts, why is she so willing to help?
Margaret Heckel is the author of a bestselling biography of Angela Merkel and she joins us now from Berlin. Good morning.
Margaret Heckel: Good morning.
Hobson: How does Angela Merkel see her role in the European debt crisis?
Heckel: Well, she definitely wants to keep the euro, because she knows that if Greece goes out of the euro, or if the markets force Greece out of the euro, the whole idea of the common denomination will fall. And you know, Germany has been profiting quite a lot from the euro. And we are an export nation, and it is quite clear that we need the euro to continue to be such a strong exporter to the world.
Hobson: So there are obvious interests for Germany to keep Europe together, but is there a sense of duty on the part of Angela Merkel? Does she feel like it’s her responsibility to keep this all intact?
Heckel: I think so, I think so. Nobody wants to be the chancellor who sort of destroyed the euro. And I think she sees it as her duty, although the Germans are really turning against financing the rest of Europe — so it’s a very tight line that she’s walking.
Hobson: Germany is a country that has seen a lot of history in the last hundred years or so — it’s been the center of a lot of history. Do you think that Merkel sees herself right now in another one of those big, historic moments for Germany?
Heckel: Yes, I think she does. For her, it’s definitely a formative moment now, with the euro. Absolutely comparable to the time when the Wall came down over 20 years ago.
Hobson: Is she up to the task?
Heckel: Well, we will see. I very much hope so, being a German citizen myself. I’d say she’s much more up to the task than a lot of other politicians I’m observing within Europe. But it’s a very, very tough task. As a German citizen, I wish her all the luck she can have.
Hobson: Margaret Heckel is the author of a bestselling biography of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thanks so much for joining us.
Heckel: You’re welcome.
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