Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Standing Firm: Merkel Won't Budge on Austerity Despite Setback

SPIEGEL ONLINE INTERNATIONAL: Hopes that Chancellor Angela Merkel will back down from her strict insistence on austerity are likely to be dashed despite mounting European criticism of her policy and a crushing state election defeat for her party on Sunday. Most Germans like how she has handled the crisis, say analysts.

When the going gets tough, Chancellor Angela Merkel is prone to making a quick U-turn. Last year's departure from nuclear energy weeks after the Fukushima accident is a prime example.

But Europeans hoping that mounting international opposition will make her drop her austerity plan to save the euro -- a policy that is causing so much pain in ailing economies like Greece and Spain -- are likely to be disappointed, say analysts in Germany.

The chancellor's personal approval ratings remain high, and opinion polls show the majority of Germans support her European strategy, which they see as the best way to limit the impact of the crisis on their personal finances.

An opinion poll for Stern magazine published last week showed that 59 percent of Germans are opposed to stimulating growth through new borrowing, and 61 believe that Merkel should stick to her position.

As long as that doesn't change, Merkel won't significantly soften her stance. Minor concessions are all France's new Socialist president François Hollande, due to meet her for the first time in Berlin on Tuesday evening, can expect, say analysts. The reinvigorated center-left opposition at home is also likely to get less than it wants. » | David Crossland | Tuesday, May 15, 2012