Germans Mock Greek Referendum, Unsure About Euro’s Future

Germans are tired of Greece, but they are unsure if the country should leave the euro.

Copies of Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper are seen in Oberding, July 3
Copies of Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper are seen in Oberding, July 3 (Tomas Thoren)

Germany’s popular press on Friday revealed exhaustion in Europe’s largest economy with the Greeks’ latest demands for financial support.

Bild, the country’s most popular tabloid, printed a mock ballot paper on its front page that asked readers, “Should we continue to support Greece with further billions from taxpayers?”

The tabloid ridiculed the referendum Greece’s far-left leaders have called for Sunday on an offer to extend a bailout program that is now defunct.

Greek leaders urge a “no” vote in defiance of their country’s creditors. Yet they also claim that the referendum is effectively meaningless because Greece will secure another bailout no matter what.

European officials deny there is another deal in the offing and see the referendum as a test of the Balkan nation’s commitment to the euro currency. Polls show the Greeks evenly divided on whether to vote “yes” or “no”.

The more respectable Handelsblatt newspaper put a picture of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras pointing a gun to his head on its front page. Its headline read, “Money here or I shoot!”

The paper published a Forsa poll that showed 76 percent of Germans blame the Greek government for the state’s insolvency. But the same poll also showed a 48 percent plurality of Germans in favor of Greece’s euro membership.

An ARD-Deutschlandtrend poll similarly found that 45 percent of Germans believe Greece should keep the euro, down from 51 percent in February.

Last month, Bild published its first-ever unsigned editorial to argue that Greece should be expelled from the eurozone. “It’s time to let Greece go from the euro, in the hope of a better future,” it said.

The Germans have taken a hard line with Greece in the recent bailout talks. They rejected most of Tsipras’ demands for relief from the austerity measures that Greece committed to implement under a five-year, €240 billion program bailout program.

Tsipras was elected in January on vows to end austerity. German leaders blamed him for making promises he couldn’t keep.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s economy minister and head of the ruling Social Democrats, told Bild last month, “We will not let the exaggerated electoral pledges of a partly-communist government be paid for by German workers and their families.”

But reports have also surfaced of a split in Germany between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her hawkish finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, about whether to keep Greece in the euro or not. Schäuble is reportedly convinced that a Greek exit would leave the rest of the bloc better off while Merkel is more reluctant to reverse the European integration process for the first time.

At €63.5 billion, Germany holds the biggest share of Greece’s €324 billion debt, most of which is held by official creditors. Indeed, Germany’s share is more than Greece owes all private parties outside the country put together.

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