News / Europe

Europe Talks Austerity

Multimedia

David Dyar

Austerity is on everyone's mind as European governments -- one after another -- introduce spending cuts to get deficits under control and shore up the beleaguered Euro. Most experts agree belt-tightening is needed, but it's not always popular and comes at a cost, often to social benefits. 

Austerity is the order of the day and it's not always popular as deadly riots in Greece recently proved.

Still, parliaments across Europe are debating 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 and new taxes to bring Germany's deficit within the European Union limit of 3 percent of GDP.  "We have difficult times. We cannot afford everything  we wish for if we want to create the future," she said.

The aim is to save nearly $100 billion by 2014.   

Europe's tilt toward austerity is driven by the current financial crisis, says political analyst Cornelius Adebahr, of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "We've 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," he said.

The Greek government's near default on its loans triggered the financial crisis and also threatened the euro and countries using it.

Germany is a major part of the European Union bail-out plan for Greece. While its economy is in much better shape than that of Greece, many Germans seem to agree  austerity is needed.  

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

Germany has traditionally been fiscally conservative and Germans are viewed as prudent with their money.  

And with budget cuts on everyone's agenda, the question now is where will they come from and will they endanger the German social safety net.

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

Many would not want to give them up.  But Adebahr says many young people do not believe they will get those same benefits.  "If you ask them whether they will receive a pension and what age, they say "I'm not sure whether I will be in the position of pensioners of today," he said.

Jobless and health care benefits have already been reduced. Plus, the retirement age has been raised.

But, many Germans say austerity must not cut too deep into their cherished welfare state.

Artur Fischer, head of the Berlin Stock Exchange, is one of them. "I want to live in a country where people have a minimum to live somewhat of a happy life. 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," he said.

In general, Germans want the social contract maintained and are willing to sacrifice to keep it - for themselves and future generations.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs