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Eurozone Threatened By Divide Between Greece And Germany


Let's hear now about a relationship that's been on the rocks in recent weeks. Greece says Germany's insistence on austerity is destroying its economy. They'll talk about it when the two countries meet today in Berlin. Joanna Kakissis has the view from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Christos Katsioulis is the son of a Greek father and a German mother. Raised outside Stuttgart, he moved to Athens three years ago to open the local office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German think tank.

CHRISTOS KATSIOULIS: It's the aim to enhance dialogue between the two countries and build up networks between the two countries.

KAKISSIS: But the relationship between these two countries - Europe's biggest economy and one of its smallest - has hit a new low in recent weeks.

KATSIOULIS: Right now, I think in both countries, in Greece and in Germany, we react to the growing European interdependence we're living in by going back to cheap nationalisms.

KAKISSIS: And that nationalism has sometimes gotten deeply personal. Avgi, the newspaper affiliated with Syriza, the leftist party now running Greece, recently published a cartoon that depicted German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble as a concentration camp commandant. Meanwhile, the German tabloid Bild declared that no more money should go to what it called the greedy Greeks.


GUNTHER JAUCH: (Speaking German).

KAKISSIS: And last week, German media spent days discussing whether Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave Germany the finger during a speech in Croatia two years ago. Katsioulis was exasperated.

KATSIOULIS: Instead of focusing on substance between Greece and Germany, instead of focusing on our common European issues at hand, we focus on how the one or the other person said something in the past.

KAKISSIS: The past deeply affects Greeks, too. Vasso Vuvali lost her business during the crisis and supports Greek government efforts to seek reparations from Germany, which occupied Greece during World War II.

VASSO VUVALI: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: "We will pay our debts," she says. "But the Germans should pay their debts, too." But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says Greece cannot pay unless the Eurozone ends its austerity policies. Economist Elena Papadopoulou says it's a message the Germans don't want to hear.

ELENA PAPADOPOULOU: And when you try to blame the messengers, it means that you don't really feel that something needs to change. And in order to have the same goal, we need to be clear about what is going wrong in Europe, and we need to work to correct it.

KAKISSIS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wants Greece to remain in the Eurozone and that if the euro fails, the European Union will fail, too. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.