Now, European leaders return home from Mexico, where they're faced with painful choices as they try to save the eurozone. One challenge is Greece. The party that won the Greek elections this weekend accepts the tough conditions imposed by the country's bailout, but it wants to adjust the timetable for implementing austerity measures. Well, today, a European official in Brussels admitted that may be necessary. Still, Germany, Europe's most powerful economy, is expected to resist. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports from Berlin.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Chancellor Angela Merkel in Mexico reiterated her tough line that bailout terms for Greece are not negotiable. She returns home tonight to a German electorate that's fed up with a debt crisis that only seems to grow and worsen.

Binde Balle strolls with her husband down by Berlin's Spree River near the Bundestag. She's a 71-year-old retired doctor from northern Germany in town visiting her two adult sons. Her attitude is typical of many here who see Greek elections as only a minor victory in the effort to keep the eurozone from breaking apart.

BINDE BALLE: (Through Translator) The Greek problem is far from solved. The work is only just beginning. Now, Greece has to move. Taxes need to be collected. People need to get back to work. And there must be investment. This simply can't go on any longer. They've made the first step, but the problem is still very much there.

WESTERVELT: The G-20 communique today from Mexico included a pledge to consider concrete steps towards a more integrated financial architecture in Europe that would include common banking supervision. There are other proposals out there to slowly create a kind of fiscal United States of Europe. Binde Balle is behind that idea and voices her support with a sense of urgency that her chancellor is often criticized for lacking.

BALLE: (Through Translator) I do not think that there is a widespread willingness among Germans to give up autonomy to Brussels. But if we want to keep the euro, then we have no other choice other than to pursue economic and financial policies together as Europe. It's an urgent matter, and Germany will simply have to give up some of its sovereignty.

WESTERVELT: As will other European countries. And it seems Europe is still far away from convincing leaders to relinquish more control to Brussels. Talk of a tighter fiscal union will be part of a mini gathering of EU leaders in Rome on Friday and a meeting of all the EU heads of state in Brussels next week. But economic integration involves complex issues, lengthy negotiations and perhaps treaty changes.

Former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff who's now at Harvard says it's vital the upcoming gathering show that leaders are making discernible progress and not just talking.

KEN ROGOFF: I think they need to take a quantum leap over the next month of two towards unification, if this isn't to blow up. They have to agree that they're going to take radical steps over the next 15 years, starting with something soon like a banking union, like a euro bond, something that's a nascent fiscal union that gets things moving in the right direction.

WESTERVELT: But German officials are still resisting calls for shared euro bonds. They want incremental fiscal integration. And fixing these deep, structural problems, which have hampered a solution to the debt crisis for nearly three years, will take time and political will that Europe may not have. That's the view of Matthias Matthijs who teachers International Economic Relations at American University in Washington, D.C.

MATTHIAS MATTHIJS: The low-hanging fruit of integration is gone. Right now, we have to talk about redistribution, about guaranteeing each other's pensions, things like this. So then you have to have a political commitment to euro bonds down the line, to a real fiscal union. And are we politically ready for this in Europe? I just don't see it. You don't even have to watch European soccer to see how much, you know, nation states are still at work.

WESTERVELT: For Americans, the debt crisis may seem distant. But part of what's at stake is the extremely fragile U.S. economic recovery, says Jean Pisani-Ferry, the director of the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.

JEAN PISANI-FERRY: What we've learned in 2008, the interdependence was much stronger than people believed earlier. I mean, we saw immediately the U.S. shock transmitted to Europe. Europe and U.S. financial market are so strongly integrated that the impacts are extremely strong.

WESTERVELT: And the impact of financial calamity this time, he says, can easily work in reverse and quickly transmit to American shores. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from