May 16th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Joffe: Germany makes for nice eurozone 'whipping boy'

Can a president who's elected on a promise to be normal deal with Europe in the throes of a crisis of abnormality?

With France's Francois Hollande taking office, an all-star panel debates "Mr. Normal" and how the politics will reverberate across Europe in this excerpt from the past week's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." Watch the video above.

And is Germany taking too much of the anger? Here's what Josef Joffe, Die Zeit editor, had to say:

ZAKARIA: Josef Joffe, you know that much of the rhetoric and the anger is directed at Germany. The idea is the Germans are forcing all this austerity on Europe, European governments having forced to cut their budgets. It's causing misery, unemployment. It's even causing bigger budget deficits.

But you've sort of defended the German position, isn't it fair to say?

JOSEF JOFFE, EDITOR, DIE ZEIT: Well, I mean, Angela Merkel makes for a nice whipping boy for problems which are deeply rooted in the societies that we've just heard about [France, Greece, Spain]. ...

The problem is that the rest of Europe is ganging up on Germany and that German economic miracle, the export miracle, which everybody is complaining about, has a very simple reason. German unit labor cost didn't rise almost at all. In the last decade, it went up by 35 percent in Italy, same number in the Iberian countries and it went through the roof in Ireland.

One last point, the Irish, who went through the roof, they had 50 percent increase in unit labor cost have now come down to just 25 percent increase. So, in other words, it can be done if you put your mind to it.

Post by:
Topics: Economy • France • Germany • GPS Show • Greece

soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Billy

    The Europeans do not have to be Subservient to the German Government, but do not expect them to Loan them anymore Money till they pay off the debt they have already incured with them.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  2. Poul

    It's only Southern Europe that is ganging up on Germany. Germany is not only exporting but imports a lot from Scandinavia and Holland. It is matter of producing quality products that can compete with the German products. It is very simple but Southern European countries are doing that. Workers in Nothern Europe does not want pay anymore for goverment workers in Greece and Spain retirering at 60.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • Bobby

      Retirement in Spain is now at 67. Please stop prejudicing latin people.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
      • Poul

        Sorry about the mistake but I'm not prejudicing anybody and as a European only looking at economics. Living in Northern Europe I paid over 50% in tax and a lot of the money went to Southern Europe for "infra structure investments". Second of all people born in Spain are not latin people and the prejudicing of latin people is an American phenomenon.

        May 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
      • Faheem

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        August 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
      • Matthias

        also, if you're staying in hoelsts, you could save a lot of money buying a sleepsheet. i think i got mine at REI, but it's basically a sleeping bag liner that gets pretty small, that way i didn't have to pay for sheets or sleep on sketchy ones . other people have suggested just sewing a sheet (or even just folding one over) works well too. definitely earplugs and an alarm clock. i'd also bring a small padlock as most hoelsts have lockers but then you have to rent the locks.

        August 10, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  3. Peter

    "Is Europe Ganging Up On Germany"

    That's a switch, eh? :)

    May 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  4. clearick

    The countries blaming Germany have no one to blame but themselves! They're the ones spending beyond their means with huge deficits. That's why they're crying about austerity, they are too dependent on their governments for handouts. Governments are stupid- they need to create productive jobs for their people, that's how they can influence their economies. They should focus on the basics, like clean energy, increased food production, better transportation etc.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  5. SC

    Bush's speech writer screws as much as his boss. Spain's unemployment is 50 %. Which planet are you on? It's 24 plus % and less than 25 %. Do your homework before you go on a national television and make a complete fool of yourself.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  6. Sharky

    This is ironic. Usually it's been Germany beating up Europe.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  7. Marty

    It might not be a good idea to antagonize Germany. They do not have a long history of playing well with others.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:23 am | Reply
  8. Willie12345

    Germany.....the Goose that lays the golden eggs. Slain for Greece, Spain and Italy ???

    May 17, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  9. L

    Work hard, get an education. Raise your children to do the same and do not have more children than you can afford (see education)... Why is this so hard to understand?

    May 17, 2012 at 8:48 am | Reply
  10. Billy

    All the children of Europe don't like being told to grow up by the only adult country in Europe.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
  11. rose macaskie

    In Europe they convinced you that Europes woes are due to too much helping the poor. I dont know how, did they drug you? We all know how a new treatment of debt or way of treating the legal obligation of the debtor to pay a rent on owed money and their obligition to return the principal, caused a new and totally strange situation that did for the markets of the whole world, or a combination of deregugulatirn of the financial world with a new way of dealing with the benefits of lending money were the things that had unepected and pretty fatal consequences on the worl dmarkets. The new way of making money out of debt was by selling on the right to recieve the interest the debtor promised to pay in return for the money he was lent to third parties. Though we all know this, in europe they managed to argue things round in circles till the fault of the financial crisis became to much socialism during the last thirty years, and that when the last thirty years were the years of ideas that opposed socialism rising to have more weight than socialist ideas did,. They were the thirty years in which ideas that opposed socialism had their first success, with Mrs Thatcher, who came into power in 1975 turning, ideas that did for socialism, from ideas into policies, she put in place policies that are now famous for being part of the Republican agenda, such as deregulating, most especially deregulatingthe financial world or a more flexible labour market, something that has now been the bane of Spainish workers for at least twenty years, other policies of hers were privatisation, and breaking the back of the unions.
    Europe was not only cool and spin doctor enough to leave you with the impresion that the problem was socialism, the virilance of socialism, virulence that started thirty years ago and Germany and France are the countries with most Greek debt, so presumibly the countries that made most money out of it in the years in which the markets were making so much money out of debt that all they wanted was to convince more people to take out loans, credit worthy or not, but also they made you forget the recent history of America, it was thirty years ago that Ranieri, Finch and Maxwell, "All the Devils Are Here", Bethany Maclean and Joe Northeras, and designed the new way of dealing with IOUs that lead to the financial crisis. You know it was not socialism, much more virulent in the twenty years of my chidhood previous to the last thirty years that created the present crisis, it was the deregulaiton of the banks and the ideas of Ranieri, Fink and Maxwell that did indeed start thirty years ago, that created the present propblems althoug innocently enough thirty years ago, with the ideas of the IMF ideas that made sure that we did not cilmb out of the problems, caused by deregualtion and cdos, playing their part and their ideas are also the result of idealogy of the right.. Socialism started many many years before thirty years ago.thirty years ago marked the start of the decline of socialist policies.rose macaskie madrid.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  12. KL

    Well – I can't afford to buy "The Zeit" or any other newspaper! Mr. Joffe has a neo-konservativ view from left side, (not really much better as the one from the right)! He told in an Amanpour interview that Mrs Merkel will be chancellor for a further four years, and this view shocked me! But telling this has one reason: Why doesn't he himself, stand for beiing the whiping boy? No he needn't suffer anything! All youth and young people are sold with low wages in busy and stressy working conditions! Be young and successfull and without any reasons not to work. They were raised in times without crises, without war and and everything was getting better steadily. People like Herr Joffe are old now, but talk about success, permanently like climbing up a ladder, they keep their highly paid job long and longer – It's very convinient not to go out of the way and rule with grey hair! It is nice to belong to the happy few, regretting in loyality with the ones in power, but too easy! (We should cut his pensions, probably! Only if your own ass burns, you feel they are talking about fire.....)

    May 18, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
  13. Daniel Mvula Shimunza

    It is my sincere honor and privilege to register my heartfelt thanks for the program GPS, your perspectives on issues and the comments are very enriching. i can only say you are simply put one of the heroes and ginuises of our time. please coninue the work. you make simple complex issues of our time thateven the simple can understand.

    Apostle Daniel shimunza, Zambia

    May 21, 2012 at 7:21 am | Reply
  14. jumba

    It's impossible for countries like Greece with its super early retirement age, record low tax paying and nearly half unemployment to be successful regardless of what Germany or ANY of the other European countries do

    It IS Greece's fault, nothing more to it

    June 3, 2012 at 4:05 am | Reply
  15. Francis

    , get sturdy pistalc cutlery. The Rick Steves store (travelstore.ricksteves.com) has very good pistalc cutlery for $5.-Small travel alarm clock. Get the most compact one you can find. They'll run you about $20. However, if you're taking your cell phone, you can nix this idea and just use your cell phone as an alarm clock.-Plug adapter. Most chargers for electronics (like cell phones and digital cameras) can handle both 110 & 220, so all you'll need is a simple plug adapter.-Money belt and locks for luggage. Don't lock the luggage before you get on the plane, though, or the TSA will kindly remove it for you. -And don't forget Pepto Bismol tablets and small packets of handi-wipes, which are indispensible when on the road.Regardless of my travel budget, those last four items on my list are ALWAYS packed.

    August 8, 2012 at 6:39 am | Reply
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