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European unease continues over Greek bailout

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Jeremy Hobson: This morning, the focus is on whether banks will get a new round of stress tests to see how they would withstand a Greek default. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European rescue fund can only be used as a last resort to save banks.

Yesterday, as protests roared in Athens, Greece, I spoke with the BBC’s Mark Lowen who is there, and the BBC’s Steve Evans in Berlin. I started by asking Steve Evans how the Germans are feeling about the Greeks.

Steve Evans: Well, if you want kind of an objective measure, the polls show a lot of unease about giving money to Greece. Say four, five months ago, the papers in Germany were painting this picture of Greece as being this country of scroungers and wasters and people who take bribes and don’t work very hard.

Now, the tone has changed, you know. It’s as though German politicians have suddenly realized that the choice is between giving money to Greece or letting the euro shatter. And if they let the euro shatter, German business would suffer.

Hobson: OK, well Mark Lowen, over to you in Athens. How does that sound to you, and what are the Greeks feeling about the Germans at the moment?

Mark Lowen: I think it’s a pretty difficult time, probably, to be a German in Greece at the moment, because the Greeks are pretty resentful to a large extent. And also the Greeks are pretty resentful about how they are portrayed by the German press. You heard there from Steve about various articles that have portrayed them as wasters and lazy. The Greeks say, “We are not like that, we have our way of life and we are not to blame for the misdemeanors of our government who have spent too much money in the last few years — more money than they had.”

Hobson: Steve Evans in Berlin, I want to ask you — you know, I was on the streets of London the other day, and they were saying, “You know, yes, the European economy is bad, but the U.S. economy is also a major concern.” You’re in Germany, a big global economy — what are they worried about right now? Europe or the U.S.?

Evans: I think they’re worried about everything. What I think you can say is there has been a rise of anit-American feeling since the great crash of 2008, and people by and large think those events started in America — with a society that borrowed too much and forgot what the Germans would certainly see as the basics of economic life — which is that you earn, and then you spend.

Hobson: And Mark, over to you in Athens, what’s the feeling there?

Lowen: I think they feel that it’s really in the hands of the Germans and of other eurozone members more than the Americans. There is an understanding here that the American debt crisis is very much mixed up in all of this.

But that said, there is so little support in Greece for austerity dive being pushed through that the embattled Prime Minister George Papandreou and his cabinet need the support of Mrs. Merkel and others. So, on the one hand, resentment on the street, I think, towards the “heavy hand,” if you like, of Germany and other strong eurozone members. But also, they’re the ones keeping Greece afloat at the moment and supporting Greece through this very, very difficult time.

Hobson: The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens and the BBC’s Steve Evans in Berlin. Guys, thanks to both of you.

Evans: You’re welcome.

Lowen: Thanks.

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