The European election cycle is kicking into high gear as the German chancellor had some tough words for Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Spiegel ONLINE reports,
“It is also important that people in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are not able to retire earlier than in Germany — that everyone exerts themselves more or less equally. That is important.”
She added: “We can’t have a common currency where some get lots of vacation time and others very little. That won’t work in the long term.”
Her comments were not well received by the German opposition, however. The leader of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel,
“It is shameful that Merkel is gambling away the European idea … only to receive praise from the tabloids. She is fomenting anti-European resentment.”
The co-head of the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, shot back at Merkel,
“arbitrary selection of specific issues doesn’t help countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain nor does it reflect reality.”
Calling her comments “absurd,” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Greens in European Parliament, had this to say,
“Of course people in southern Europe work a lot,” he said. Instead of “looking for cheap applause,” Merkel should make concrete proposals, he added.
Can monetary union work without “cultural union”? Is it just policy differences or do the work ethics of the various Eurozone countries really differ? If so, should there be forced convergence? These are some of the questions the Eurozone is wrestling with as they work through their existential crisis and try to save the common currency.
And how ironic was it, in our culture of bailouts, that the (former) head of the world’s numero uno sovereign bailout bureaucracy, the IMF, was “bailed out” today? Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up. A Greek tragedy within the Greece tragedy.