Thursday

13th Dec 2018

Merkel under fire for 'lazy Greeks' comment

  • Work more, relax less, says Merkel, pictured here with Greek PM Papandreou (Photo: Prime Minister of Greece)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire at home and abroad for suggesting that people in Greece, Portugal and Spain take too many holidays and retire too early.

Speaking at a rally in the western German town of Meschede on Tuesday evening, Merkel suggested southern Europeans are not working enough, while Germans are expected to bail them out.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"It is also about not being able to retire earlier in countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal than in Germany, instead everyone should try a little bit to make the same efforts – that is important," she said.

"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," the chancellor stressed.

Her government has no intention of letting the euro "go bust", but in order to step up the aid, "we cannot simply show solidarity and say these countries should simply continue as before."

"Yes Germany will help but Germany will only help when the others try. And that must be clear," she said.

Her comments sparked outrage on the German political scene, with the Social Democratic opposition calling her "populist" for giving a "coarse representation of Greek realities," while the European Greens ald labelled her remarks "absurd."

In Portugal, trade unionist were also angered by the suggestion that southern Europeans are having a nice time on the beach while the Germans are working hard for their bailouts.

"This is the purest colonialism," Portuguese trade union chief Manuel Carvalho da Silva said, as quoted by DPA. He blasted Merkel for showing "no solidarity" and supporting a system where "the rich continue to live at the expense of the poorest countries in a disastrous system of exploitation."

Germany has voted to gradually increase the retirement age to 67 from 2012 on and is currently evaluating a proposal to hike it even further, to 69 years. Greece raised its retirement age to 65 last year, while Spain lifted it to 67 in January this year. In Portugal, the retirement age is 65.

But statistics published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - a club of the richest 34 states looking at employment and economics figures - show that, in reality, Germans retire earlier than their southern European counterparts.

The average "effective retirement age" table shows that in 2009, German men retired when they were 61.8 years old, the same as Spaniards and slightly earlier than Greeks (61.9), but Portuguese stayed on until they were 67.

Greek women, meanwhile, retire a few months earlier than their German counterparts: at 59.6 years compared to 60.5 years. But Spanish and Portuguese women still work longer, for another three years on average.

Southerners also have a similar amount of holidays to those in Germany.

According to German law, workers can have at least 20 holidays a year, but these vary from state to state and can go up to 30 days. Greek workers are also entitled to 20 days of vacation and once they have worked for more than 10 years, they get another five days on top. Portuguese workers go on holiday for 22 days and Spaniards for 21.

Anti-semitism 'disturbingly normalised' in Europe

Almost 40 percent of European Jews contemplate leaving their home country because they no longer feel safe, and almost 85 percent say their number one concern in Europe is anti-semitism and racism, according to a new EU survey.

Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, seen as championing similar policies to Angela Merkel, has won the CDU party leadership contest and is thus the frontrunner to become chancellor once Merkel leaves. But a split party will mean challenges.

Analysis

CDU election - Merkel's big gamble or master move?

As the functions of Christian Democratic Union party leader and chancellor have historically always been held by the same person, the next CDU leader could take over Merkel's main job as well.

EU warns tech giants on Russian fake news

Social media platforms are told to tackle fake accounts and the spread of fake news more effectively before the European elections next May - or face regulation.

Soros' university forced out of Budapest, despite EU pledges

The American university is forced to move to Vienna, as EU institutions fail to curb Hungarian nationalist premier, Viktor Orban's push against academic freedom. "It is a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary," the rector said.

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. EU summit hits asylum fatigue as deadlock continues
  2. Battered May seeks Brexit 'assurances' from EU
  3. Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland
  4. Court confirms EU illegally relaxed diesel emission rules
  5. Orban defies EU with 'rubber-stamp' court
  6. Raw materials: 'holy grail' of 21st century industrial policy
  7. COP24: Vanuatu in 'constant state of emergency' on climate
  8. EU rules out Brexit renegotiation, again

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us