News / Europe

    Germany Approves Biggest Austerity Plan Since World War II

    Austerity is on everyone's mind as one European government after another introduces spending cuts to try to get deficits under control and shore up the beleaguered euro currency.

    Austerity is the order of the day as parliaments across Europe debate how to reduce deficits and where to cut. And, that includes Europe's economic giant.

    The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed on budget cuts to bring Germany's deficit within European Union limits of three percent of GDP.

    Speaking at a news conference in Berlin recently, Chancellor Merkel explained why it was necessary.

    These are difficult times, she said, "We cannot afford everything we wish for if we want to create a future."

    The aim is to save nearly $100 billion by 2014. It is being called Germany's biggest austerity plan since World War II.

    In general, Europe's emphasis on austerity is driven by the current financial crisis, says political analyst Cornelius Adebahr, of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

    "We have seen the example of Greece, where there was no more trust in the Greek government's ability to cut down the budget, to contain the debt or to keep it under control," said Adebahr. "So there is a momentum right now that is very much driven by the markets."

    The financial crisis was triggered by the Greek government's inability to pay back its loans and by the country's near default, which threatened to drag the euro and those countries using the currency with it.

    Germany is a major part of the European Union bail-out plan for Greece, and while its economy is in much better shape than that of Greece, austerity is the order of the day.

    And many Germans, it appears, agree.

    "Saving is definitely the right way to go", said a German. He warned that somebody is going to have to pay the debt back and it will be future generations.

    "We have to start and not postpone it again" said another man. His wife agreed. "I think everyone should do their part, including those who are better off financially," she said.

    Germany has traditionally followed a fiscally conservative path and Germans are widely viewed as prudent with their money. With budget cuts on the agenda, the question now is where will they come from and will they endanger the German social safety net.

    Germany and most of Europe has a broad social-welfare net - benefits for the poor, for the unemployed, universal health care and good pensions.

    Many would not want to give that up. But political analyst Adebahr says many young people do not believe they will get those same benefits in the future.

    "Many in the young generation do not believe in the old pension system," said Adebahr. "If you ask them whether they will receive a pension and what age, they say "I am not sure whether I will be in the position of pensioners of today."

    Some benefits have already been reduced - including jobless benefits and health care. Plus, the retirement age has been raised and many say it will continue to go up. But many Germans are adamant the austerity burden must not cut too much into their cherished welfare state.

    That is as it should be says head of the Berlin stock exchange, Artur Fischer.

    "I want to live in a country where people have a minimum to live somewhat of a happy life," he said. "Therefore I am willing to give away, through taxes and through other means, part of my income as a person, and a lot of other people think the same. So, we have a more stable society and we do this consciously."

    Strains on the social-welfare net are not new and go beyond the current financial crisis. In general, Germans want that social contract maintained and are willing to save to do so - for themselves and future generations.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.