Greeks Want to Stay in the Euro? Why Don’t They Move to Germany?

Above 80% of Greeks want to stay in the Euro:

About 80.9 percent of Greeks believe Greece should struggle to stay within the eurozone “at any cost,” fresh opinion polls showed on Wednesday.

Some 45.4 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by GPO firm for local private television Mega channel said that they regarded as most probable a Greek exit from the European common currency. And 48.4 percent of the respondents said that such a prospect was less likely.

But they don’t like the austerity measures that staying in the Euro entails:

About 77.8 percent expect the next government to emerge from the June 17 general elections to renegotiate the harsh austerity terms of the two bailout deals reached since May 2010 with international lenders to avoid a disorderly default

So the question is why don’t they leave Greece and move to the core where companies are hiring and public services aren’t being slashed, and where there is no overhanging threat of being thrown out of the euro?

Greeks claim that that’s exactly what they want to do:

Conducted in January by the Focus Bari company using a sample of 444 people aged between 18 and 24, the study shows 76% of interviewees believing that leaving Greece would be the best response to the effects of the economic crisis.

But they’re not doing it:

However, for most of them, the idea of leaving appears a dream that cannot come true. Half of those interviewed (53%) spoke of having thought about emigrating, while just 17% said that they had resolved to leave the country and that they had already undertaken preparatory actions.

A slightly lower percentage (14%) stated that they were forcing themselves quite consciously to stay in Greece, as it is their generation that has to bring about the changes that the country so desperately needs.

And it’s not even like they have to return home should recent immigrants become jobless — after twelve months working in another European state, Europeans are generally entitled to welfare:

Who can claim benefits in the European Economic Area (EEA)?

You may be able to get benefits and other financial support if any of the following apply:

  • you’ve lived, worked or studied (a recognised career qualification) in an EEA country
  • you’re a stateless person or refugee and you live in an EEA country
  • you’re a dependant or the widow or widower of anyone who was covered by the regulations (your nationality doesn’t matter)
  • you’re the widow, widower or child of someone who worked in an EEA country and was not an EEA national or a stateless person or refugee (but you must be a national of that country)
  • you’re not an EEA or Swiss national but legally resident in the UK
  • you’ve lived in the EEA country long enough to qualify

Just twelve months of work separates a jobless young Greek and austerity-free arbeitslosengeld

Yet this isn’t just a Greek issue. Labour mobility is much lower in Europe than the US:

The fact that labour mobility is low in Europe is indicative of a fundamental problem. In any currency union or integrated economy it is necessary that there is enough mobility that people can emigrate from places where there is excess labour (the periphery) to places where labour is in short supply.

Now, there is free movement in Europe, which is an essential prerequisite to a currency union. But the people themselves don’t seem to care for utilising it.

Why? I can theorise a few potential reasons people wouldn’t want to move — displacement from friends and family, moving costs, local attachment.  Yet none of those reasons are inapplicable to the United States. However there are two reasons which do not apply in the United States — language barriers and national loyalty. It is those reasons, I would suggest, that are preventing Europe from really functioning as a single economy with a higher rate of labour mobility.

The people who built the Euro realised that such problems existed, but decided to adopt a cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it approach:

I am sure the Euro will oblige us to introduce a new set of economic policy instruments. It is politically impossible to propose that now. But some day there will be a crisis and new instruments will be created.

Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, December 2001

But long-term and deep-seated issues like language barriers and nationalistic sentiment cannot simply be eroded away in a day with an economic policy instrument. No bond-buying bazooka can smooth the underlying reality that Europe — unlike the United States — is not a single country.

Greeks who want to stay in the euro in the long run would do well to move to the core.

37 thoughts on “Greeks Want to Stay in the Euro? Why Don’t They Move to Germany?

  1. Or even across the Med. Tunisia is close to Europe and will probably have a much better growth future in our lifetime:

    Currently its a bit raw, but that is just the time when you want to get in–on the ground floor. A seaside property in Tunisia would be a wonderful place to live. And if the Arab Spring is able to shake off the West like its shaking off dictators, than maybe the dry beaches of North Africa would be a focal point for a mini economic boom.

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  4. The Greeks love the free ride, not paying taxes, and extra long parties + vacations. Greeks have themselves to blame for certain. The bankers are bad but a single hand can’t make applause. Need two hands to do that.

    Many Greeks already have done that – moved to Germany.

    p.s. ruled by the Germans is a good thing for the Greek. See how well the Germans have manged their country.

  5. As long as I was not starving I think I’d rather stay in scenic Greece than move to cold grim Germany. And the Germans did rule Greece 1941 – 1944. Perhaps memories of that time are making the Greeks reluctant to try that again?

    What’s so bad about transfer payments after all? The Germans need someplace to go to escape their gray homeland. We do it, sort of, in the U.S., but instead of calling it “transfer payments” we call it Mississippi. Why can’t the Germans just do the same? They can easily afford it. Greece is way, way more attractive than Mississippi in every way. They’d be getting a great deal.

    • That’s not how the treaties were set up, though. This was a foolish mistake — transfer payments are necessary to stabilise any heterogeneous policy union.

  6. Maybe the Germans will resent them? This is the same problem Germany had when the Eastern German/Polish frontiers came to Berlin and drove up unemployment and resentment, leading to the rise of the Nazis.

    I am sure this guy would not be welcome in Germany. he is not welcome in his own country. I am sure the authorities had just cause to arrest. The media twists the facts to make it look tyrannical. Hundreds of people complain about their government, but there is a fine line between dissent and a crime/mental stability.

    • There is a fine line. Foolish for the authorities to arrest him; it just creates the impression that they are hospitalising and pathologizing dissenters a la Stalin, handing critics a big ideological victory.

  7. bosch AGE VW AUDI merc ect ect ect

    The Germans are engineers my nature and the best engineers by far, so it doesn’t surprise me that “the euro core” is doing well but “there’s a true saying”

    greed blinds intelligence

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  9. Another factor that makes it difficult for (skilled) labourers to migrate inside the EU is that the education requirements for jobs that require you to hold a licence of some sort are far from harmonized. Electrical installations is an example I’ve looked into a bit – most countries require their own domestic license, which you obtain by throwing cash at their regulatory authorities and often taking courses about things you already know. Granted, the standards differ so some further education is usefull, but it still could and should be easier.

    • True, very true,

      I was a 16th edition sparky (its now 17th edition) I didn’t keep up with it and moved into some thing else instead, but when i was at tech they said the the USA was one edition behind us 15th at the time and many electricians was being employed in the US from briton (crazy) too much red tape for me………….

      language barriers: I’ll be honest, I didn’t think about that one, very good point

      • The same situation in Australia. OS Migrants must undergo a test. Unions won’t let them on site. This drives up project costs and is a major reason why BHP is pulling back Capital expenditure.. The public is becoming increasingly hostile to OS migrants (Business sponsor skilled labour) taking local jobs. As a result an Australian Electrician doing 50-60 hour weeks with isolated allowances (Remote mines, fly in fly out) can make $150,000 USD plus.

        How long before local Germans start voting far Right? Greece is already rounding up illegal immigrants much like the WW2 era. I don’t see that on local TV! What happens when Germany does the same?

  10. I think language barriers are a key point, but that nationalism, or love for local governors has little in relative terms to do with their under-utilising their freedom to move about. One wonders how long society needs to wait until nearly all languages on Earth are almost perfectly translatable in real-time; that type of a sudden boost to the volume of communication that could occur amongst people could certainly benefit civilisation quite a lot.

    • It’s very hard to be a nationalist when you see pretty much everything you’ve grown up to love and take for granted being sold for short-gain profit. So yeah, that’s really not what’s keeping me in place either.

    • I estimate 2 generations. Young Europeans already speak English and Asia and Africa are not far behind. With cheaper communication devices and English movies/songs this will happen very quickly.

      US/British Culture is quite powerful. We saw what Rock did to the Eastern Bloc. Rap in Africa etc.

  11. I’ve read that this is not really an intra-EU issue, as Europeans generally do not move much inside their own countries (mobility just as low inside their own countries when compared to US for example). So if this were the single argument against the Euro, I’d say it doesn’t hold much weight.

        • Why not look at commuting? If it means what I think it means (people live in Luxembourg or wherever and commuting to Paris in under 1h in a high speed train), we’d be comparing 0.6% vs 1.0% vs. the supposed holy grail 2.3%.

          My biggest argument against the article is however that being a (nation) country is not necessarily a very good thing and what EU should even strive to be (and not necessarily connected with having a lasting single currency). In addition to the wars that the EU countries waged upon each other – a supposed reason for the creation of the EU – I’d add the damage the nation states have inflicted upon themselves. Greeks do not as much want the euro as much as they distrust their own politicians, and know that simply, in most cases, a nation-state democracy is a very unstable system (90% of people in the world would know this, though it might come as a surprise for those that have enjoyed prosperity for generations in their own countries).

        • Nation-state democracies can be very unstable. They can be lots of bad things, as well as lots of good things.

          I am in favour of free (labour and capital) movement, free trade, etc, in Europe. I just think that the notion of deeper political integration is bound to fail — and could (and is) in backfire into greater nationalism and division — without an ideological Europeanisation on the individual, familial and local levels. And that has to take place organically, over generations, and cannot easily be constructed by politicians or bureaucrats.

          I am basically in favour of the EEC at the depth it was during the ’70s.

        • And that has to take place organically, over generations, and cannot easily be constructed by politicians or bureaucrats.

          I don’t know about that. It seems to me that the systems that do work, are those where what the top-down bureaucrats (which doesn’t mean as per my other older comments they were necessarily disconnected from the masses) concocted, worked. If we then define “organic” as taking a long time (as in centuries), we should take into account the speed at which things move now. And I don’t know of anything that doesn’t backfire, that is unless we live in utopia-land where there is no bad thing that doesn’t have good consequences and no good thing that doesn’t have bad consequences (as is the case in any complex system like for example the human body). And I strongly disagree with Taleb that the ideal (and where the world is heading anyway in less than 20 years) would be for us to live in city states (I don’t know if he changed his mind, I haven’t followed him that closely during the last months).

  12. Buddy Rojek and Aziz:

    Here is what 26 year-old Brandon Raub, a former marine, wrote on Facebook:

    Here’s an interview of Brandon from his psych ward:

    Here’s an excellent interview with Brandon’s mother on Oathkeepers:

    [audio src="" /]

    FBI said that Brandon was arrested under a Virginia mental health statute (he was in a state mental hospital), but now they’re moving him to a VA hospital (federal). Oathkeepers is worried that he’ll be drugged up there (before seeing a psychiatrist).

    Oathkeepers said that this is using mental health as an excuse to get rid of dissidents, as was done in the Soviet Union.

    • The voice on the phone appears coherent, logical and not the hallmarks of someone who may be psychotic, or schizophrenic. HOWEVER these diseases do have “Hibernation” periods.

      Why would this guy get telephone access? Why would they allow him to communicate. It could incite people if he is unwell.

      I support the Government taking the necessary steps to assess individuals. You don’t post a picture of a “Don’t Tread on Me flag” wielding a gun, if you are not attracting attention to yourself. Egomaniac and a highly trained killer at that!

      I have RSI from typing, to disseminate my political views. I don’t need a song and dance show.

    • From the radio interview, Raub’s mother has obviously spoon fed him his political views since he was a child. His mother is active politically. I would not be surprised that he pushed the envelope to get arrested and she encouraged him. This is a clever plot by the family to promote their cause. They will probably get compensation too, as the Psychologists have potentially misdiagnosed him.

      Now that it was filmed by “Concerned” friends this was definitely planned.

      • Buddy – “a clever plot by the family”? What both the mother and son say I have read all over the Internet, and with regard to 9/11, by some very intelligent engineers to boot. Was his signing up for the military and going to Iraq and Afghanistan a ploy too?

        No, I think this family has their eyes open, questioning everything, as they should, and what they’ve seen they don’t like.

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  14. John writes:
    “I am in favour of free (labour and capital) movement, free trade, etc, in Europe.”

    John, free movement is a wonderful thing, but within the context of the present system, “free movement” of labor is analogous to free movement of the convicts inside of a maximum security prison.

    It is the rules of prevailing system that dictates the freedoms allowed. Only when individuals have complete control over their labor-value, will free movement really be free movement.

  15. Or Germany could move a small part of its highly efficient industrial sector to Greece.

    How about a new BMW assembly plant near Athens? Trained construction and labor costs should be very low.

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