Saturday

7th Dec 2019

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 20 years of archives. 30-day 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.

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us