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Bailout Makes Germans Just As Squeamish As Greeks, For Different Reasons
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Bailout Makes Germans Just As Squeamish As Greeks, For Different Reasons

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Bailout Makes Germans Just As Squeamish As Greeks, For Different Reasons

Bailout Makes Germans Just As Squeamish As Greeks, For Different Reasons
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/423740575/423740576" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The eurozone's third bailout program for Greece was largely the work of German leaders, but makes may Germans uncomfortable. They want a hard line taken with Greece, but fear being seen as bullies.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All the debates about the future of Greece raised questions about identity. For one thing, how much did it mean to Greeks to feel part of Europe in every way? But there are questions of identity for another country as well, Germany. The parliament there voted in favor today of starting negotiations to provide Greece with a financial bailout package. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, up to this point, Germans have seemed torn between wanting to take a hard line with Athens and being embarrassed about their image as Europe's bully.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: A three-minute satirical video that's gone viral on YouTube highlights Germans' discomfort with their government's tough stance toward Athens.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking German).

NELSON: In the video, two German comedians have a conversation composed of selections from German newspaper headlines and Chancellor Angela Merkel's speeches.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking German).

NELSON: One of the men shouts, "just sell your eyelids, you broke Greeks, and the Acropolis too."

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking German).

NELSON: The second chimes in, "no more billions for the greedy Greeks. No, no, no."

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking German).

NELSON: The video ends with a tagline urging Germans in colorful terms to for once not be history's bullies. Many German media are also criticizing their government's behavior during the contentious talks over the Greek bailout agreement. Spiegel magazine's online website accused the German government of destroying seven decades of postwar diplomacy in a single weekend. Its editorial noted, every cent of aid the Germans try to save will have to be spent two or three times over to polish that image again. Historian Nils Minkmar, who works for Spiegel, is critical of Merkel's handling of the crisis.

NILS MINKMAR: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He says Germans pay a lot of money toward bailouts yet leave the impression they are selfish and don't care about the fate of their neighbors. And that often leads to hate for Germany, he says. Journalist Stefan Braun, who covers foreign policy for the German daily Suddeutschen Zeitung, agrees that Germany's image is damaged and complains about frequent foreign comparisons of Merkel and her government to the Nazis.

STEFAN BRAUN: (Speaking German).

NELSON: But Braun says there isn't much the chancellor could have done differently given the conflicted feelings Germans have about Greece. He says a recent poll reflects that contradiction, with a slight German majority now supporting a bailout agreement while 4 out of 5 in the same survey say they don't trust Greece to carry out government and market reforms tied to that agreement. This high level of mistrust has meant unprecedented support for Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the main voice of Germany's tough line on Greece.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: In an interview yesterday with the German public radio network Deuchalandfunkhe, Schaeuble predicted the more than $90 billion bailout program to be negotiated in the coming weeks won't solve Greece's problems. He says he continues to favor a Greek exit from the euro currency union, at least while it gets its house in order. That sentiment is shared by a sizable minority of Merkel's own political party, the Christian Democratic Union. CDU lawmaker Mark Hauptmann is one who opposes the hard-won Greek agreement and is critical of Greece's overregulated economy.

MARK HAUPTMANN: The problem is that they have a structural deficit within the country. They are not productive at all within their economy. And within the euro zone, they will never be able to have a sharp economy that is competitive.

NELSON: He adds, German taxpayers should be told that their money financing the latest Greek loans is not likely to ever be paid back. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

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