Thursday

19th Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level talks to take forward European reform, but his backing for a multi-speed Europe risks deepening divide.

Catalonia to declare independence in a few days

Spain's king, Felipe VI, said Catalonia's leaders were breaking up the country's unity as hundreds of thousands of Catalans rallied against police violence at Sunday's referendum.

EU Commission's credibility eroding, says Catalonia

A former commission official who now represents the Catalan government says some European commissioners do not agree with the EU commission's official statement on Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain.

Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis

Spanish political leaders called on Catalan separatists to organise regional elections as a way to avoid emergency measures due to be taken on Thursday. That's "not on the table", a Catalan official replied.

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level talks to take forward European reform, but his backing for a multi-speed Europe risks deepening divide.

News in Brief

  1. Madrid eyes early elections as solution to Catalan crisis
  2. Merkel starts coalition talks to form government by December
  3. Iceland confirms long-standing EU opposition, poll shows
  4. EU summit moved to previous building after fumes scare
  5. Catalonia will 'not back down'
  6. New toxic incident in EU building ahead of summit
  7. Murdered Malta journalist's family invited to Parliament
  8. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU okays Privacy Shield's first year
  2. EU seeks to decrypt messages in new anti-terror plan
  3. EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote
  4. Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis
  5. How EU can ensure Daphne Caruana Galizia's legacy survives
  6. Juncker dinner to warm up relations with eastern EU
  7. Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle
  8. The unbearable lightness of leadership