European Debt Crisis

Europeans differ on the euro’s desirability

Stephen Beard Jan 19, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Greek leaders are back at the negotiating table with the country’s lenders in Athens today. They’re trying to avoid a messy default by figuring out just how much Greek debt has to be repaid. It’s just the latest crisis moment for the euro.

And yet, as Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports, the European public remains committed to the common currency.

Stephen Beard: In many ways, the euro has been a disaster for Greece. But Vicky Christopoulou, a restaurant manager in Athens, doesn’t believe her country should pull out of the single currency.

Vicky Christopoulou: I think that I would stay with the euro.

Euro membership is a straitjacket for Greece. It cannot devalue, and so make its exports cheaper. It can’t grow its way out of trouble. Membership means more austerity, and yet more than 70 percent of Greeks — like Vicky — still seem to love the euro.

Christopoulou: It makes the European Union one. Everybody joining into one group, so it keeps us a group. So that’s why I want it still.

Italy is also suffering from the constraints of euro membership. But most Italians like Stefania Concilio, a school administrator, also support the euro as a way of bringing Europe closer together.

Stefania Concilio: The European currency is a good tool to make relationships better. So I agree with it and happy for that.

Most Italians say if you’re looking for something to blame for the debt crisis in Italy look no further than corruption and tax evasion.

Concilio: I think that the European currency is not the cause, absolutely not.

Ironically, there’s most doubt about the euro in the country that has done best out of membership. Germany has taken half of all the extra business generated by the common currency. But Germans are now among the most skeptical about monetary union.

Here’s Richard Hessler, a post office worker.

Richard Hessler: The problem is that Germany has to bail out all the others, and things are getting worse. And I don’t see a real solution there.

In one recent poll, 50 percent of Germans said they’d now prefer to pull out of the euro.

Hessler: I don’t mind us going back to the good old deutschemark. And I must confess I still have some deutschemark bank notes under my pillow and I’m ready to reactivate them any time soon.

The return of the deutschemark is not in the cards. But the waning support for the euro, in the zone’s biggest most powerful economy, is not an encouraging sign.

In London, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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