Europe Loves Germany

Douglas A. McIntyre

Europeans love and admire Germany to an extent beyond most expectations. The powerful nation might be viewed as a nasty landlord in the region. Instead, Germany has a reputation as the nation with the hardest-working people and the most responsible leaders. Germany has become the beacon of what the balance of the region should be.

The Pew Global Attitudes Survey questioned people in eight nations in the region, which included the United Kingdom. It appears the trade and currency advantages of membership in the European Union has offset the disdain Germans have for the bailouts, current and future, that they have largely financed. Pew reports that:

Across the eight European Union member countries surveyed, a median of only 34% think that European economic integration has strengthened their country’s economy. Indeed, majorities or near majorities in most nations now believe that the economic integration of Europe has actually weakened their economies. This is the opinion in Greece (70%), France (63%), Britain (61%), Italy (61%), the Czech Republic (59%) and Spain (50%). Only in Germany (59%) do most people say that their country has been well served by European integration.

Germany is the nation with the most optimistic view of its own future, perhaps, again, because of the trade gains — mostly through exports — that its gets from the region:

The public mood in Germany is considerably more positive than elsewhere in Europe. They are the only Europeans surveyed who are satisfied with the direction of their country and who think their economy is doing well. Germany is the only country where a majority of the population currently thinks that European economic integration has strengthened the national economy. Germans are most likely, by far, to say that EU membership has been a good thing

On the other side of the coin is the view most Europeans have of Greece and Spain. This view may make it more difficult to get support for further bailouts of these nations because those bailouts do not have popular support among the populations of Europe’s nations that are relatively well off financially. This disdain for the most troubled nations is not just because of their financial needs. Many Europeans see the people in these weaker nations as corrupt and lazy. Those who were polled think Italy, Spain and Greece are the most corrupt countries.

Europe’s economic fortunes will not improve soon. For there to be some turnaround, most economists believe that bailouts are necessary. But the opinions Europeans have of the people, habits and futures of economically troubled nations will make popular support for bailouts nearly impossible.

Douglas A. McIntyre