In Athens, Greek government ministers have met with their international creditors to start hammering out the details of the third bailout package agreed on in principle three weeks ago. The prospect of another round of austerity measures has left many Greeks deeply disillusioned with the European single currency — the euro. Funnily enough, many of their main adversaries within the monetary union — the Germans — feel the same.
“The euro is bad for every country, “ says Nico Rolle, a 30-year-old software engineer from Berlin. “ When you look at Italy, France or Spain, they’re all suffering because of the euro. I don’t think it was a good thing.”
Uwe Grunebast, a 52-year-old cook from Hamburg, is furious that euro membership means that once again, Germany will be pouring “billions and billions” into Greece.
“Where’s the money coming from?” he asks. “We the German taxpayers have to foot the bill and we don’t see any benefit.”
Hardly anyone in Germany is calling for the country to pull out of the euro, however. The losses the country would suffer in the default on loans and other cross border liabilities run into the trillions. But many Germans would like to see one or two other countries leave. The fact that the finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble called for Grexit is significant, says Christian Schmidt, a eurosceptic entrepreneur from Berlin.
“I think Schäuble deep down believes that indeed it would be the best if Greece were to leave the euro and that we’d all be better off,” Schmidt says. “I would like to see a smaller, leaner currency union without the likes of fiscally irresponsible countries like Greece. And it will happen eventually. I don’t think Germany will be prepared to bail out Greece again.”
At its launch 15 years ago, the euro was greeted with wild enthusiasm in some member states. That ardor has now cooled. For some member states, the downside of living within the straitjacket of a German-dominated currency union is now painfully apparent. And so is the downside for Germany. The euro is still intact, but Michael Wohlgemuth of the Open Europe think tank in Berlin wonders for how much longer.
“The real question for me is: will the eurozone survive the next recession which may come in one or two years? This could be the beginning of the end of the euro in its current form,” he says.