Tough EU stance? It's in Germany's culture
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Tough EU stance? It's in Germany's culture

Berlin : Germany | Jul 27, 2012 at 2:53 AM PDT
Source: Associated Press
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Head to the checkout at an Ikea in Stockholm to pay for your new leather corner sofa and with the swipe of a Visa card it's yours...The attitude shows up in all walks of life, from the daily trip to the grocery store to putting a roof over your head...It's one of the largest denomination notes being produced anywhere today, worth around $600, and is even known in neighboring France as "the German note."...Even though Germany is Europe's largest economy and one of its richest per head, it is last in home ownership with just over 40 percent. That compares to some 80 percent in troubled EU nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, and around 70 percent in Britain and the U.S., where owning your own home is part of the "American Dream." Germans tend to be instinctively averse to taking out a mortgage. And lenders often demand a 20 percent down payment on a house or substantial collateral. So a culture has sprung up of just renting and holding on to cash...Only 36 percent of Germans over the age of 15 even possesses a card, compared with 62 percent in the U.S., according to World Bank figures...Around the world Merkel has been derided as intransigent in her approach to the financial crisis, demanding budget cuts and fiscal austerity from allegedly profligate EU members. But her hardline stand plays well among the people who elected her. A new poll for Stern magazine shows 64 percent of Germans think the chancellor should stick to her guns, while only 32 percent think she should reconsider her insistence on austerity. The Forsa agency questioned 1,003 adults on July 5 and 6 for the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. That means measures which some politicians and economists believe offer a way out of the debt crisis are considered unacceptable here...Such joint debt could help ease the crisis by pooling risk between rich eurozone countries like Germany and their crisis-hit neighbors...Eurobonds, they argue, would just encourage profligate countries to blow their budgets even further, not to mention raise German borrowing costs...Fine, but only if countries agree to strict austerity measures to get their financial houses in order...Not a chance, Germans say, still haunted by the memory of the hyperinflation of the early 20th century that helped create the conditions for Hitler's rise. Germany's attitude to credit and debt largely stem from the financial trauma of the years that preceded the Nazi era. In the wake of massive reparation payments after the loss of World War I, the German mark went from its wartime level of about 4-5 per dollar to several trillion to the dollar...And Ikea is taking them now in two of their nearly 50 German stores, spokeswoman Josefin Thorell said. But both the stores that do take plastic are near the border with France where there's more demand from customers that they accept credit cards, said Thorell. "It's to make it easier for the French customers," she said. ----- Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.

 
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