STUTTGART, Germany — As a simmering euro crisis threatens to boil over, European leaders are again focusing their attention on Germany, widely regarded as the only country that could save the currency union. Opposition to debt runs deep in the country.
In the parks of Stuttgart, the regional capital of Swabia, there are few signs of a crisis, and the economy is growing.
In a speech, at the start of the global financial crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the qualities of the ‘Swabian housewife’ - famed in Germany for thriftiness and the ability to run a household.
Gaby Weber (left) and Claudia Bauder, members of the German-American Women's Club of Stuttgart, August 16, 2012 (VOA/Henry Ridgwell)
Claudia Bauder and Gaby Weber have plenty of advice on that. They are members of the German - American Women’s Club in Stuttgart. “There is a deeply ingrained honesty in Swabians and Germans that would not take advantage too much of other people and the state itself," Weber said.
Polls show a majority of German taxpayers back Chancellor Merkel’s pro-austerity stance, forcing troubled economies to slash spending in return for bailouts. Bauder and Weber say it is basic household economics.
This week, the German finance minister said money should not be thrown ‘into a bottomless pit’ to save the euro, a view echoed by Bauder and Weber.
“You do want to help of course, but you also say, 'What is their plan to improve their situation?' I think it is justifiable to say, ‘How do you plan to fix it?’” Bauder pondered.
If Germany pays the bills, it must have a say in how the European Union ‘household’ is run, says analyst Ferdinand Fichtner of the German Institute for Economic Research.
“We have institutions in the monetary union like the ECB [European Central Bank], but also like the bailout funds, that can actually stop the euro from falling apart by investing a huge amount of money. I do not think that this is necessarily a good thing," Fichtner stated. "I think we have to discuss about whether countries should leave the monetary union, I think this is actually healing.”
Germany says it does not want the euro to break up and European leaders have failed to come up with a solution. But Chancellor Merkel believes the simple household economics of prosperous Swabia could hold valuable lessons for the whole of Europe.