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ECONOMY

Big business makes plea to ‘save the euro’

Dozens of Germany's leading business executives have made an impassioned defence of Europe's common currency in a newspaper ad campaign urging angry taxpayers to look beyond the cost of bailouts to the benefits the euro.

Big business makes plea to 'save the euro'
Photo: DPA

Bosses from 50 of Germany and France’s top companies, among them

Siemens, BMW, Deutsche Bank, ThyssenKrupp, EON and Daimler, joined the plea to stand firm with the embattled euro in advertisements carried in major newspapers on Tuesday under the headline, “The euro is necessary.”

The companies, representing annual sales of €1.5 trillion and five million workers worldwide, wrote that they were “concerned about the future of the euro and the common European economic and currency union” as the beleaguered eurozone member Greece stands on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Facing a rising tab from bailout packages for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and with a second bailout for Greece in the making, many German taxpayers in particular are angry with the direction the currency union has since the global financial crisis in 2008.

But the coalition of business leaders, said the euro had made Europe unquestionably stronger and the consequences of allowing it to collapse were unimaginable.

“The euro symbolises the Europe of today. A collapse of the euro would be fatal step backward for Europe,” they wrote. “We have to convince our fellow citizens of this.”

They added that since the euro was introduced in 1999, nearly nine million jobs had been created in the eurozone and the euro had risen to become the second most important global currency after the US dollar, strengthening Europe’s economy and its businesses.

“Suggestions such as the exit of peripheral members or the breakup of the community into a northern and southern union are the wrong approach. They would have consequences that are barely imaginable today. Such populist solutions are not appropriate for the seriousness of the situation,” they wrote.

The campaign came as Greece’s parliament prepared for a Tuesday night vote of confidence in Prime Minister George Papandreou’s newly reshuffled cabinet – seen as crucial step toward further belt-tightening to get the nation’s public finances under control.

Eurozone finance ministers on Sunday night warned Greece would not get the next €12 billion instalment of its existing bailout package unless it proved it was moving ahead on austerity measures.

Countries such as Greece who were beset by debt crises had to be helped in the short term, the French and German industry leaders wrote on Tuesday, “to regain their financial independence and create for the people there a better prospect for the future.”

“The return to stable financial relations will cost many billions of euros, but the European Union and our common currency are always worth this effort.”

Switching to tougher language, the company bosses also stressed that action was needed to prevent future crises, including swifter sanctions for countries that broke the “stability and growth pact.” The 1997 pact obliges the 17 eurozone members to keep their budget deficits and national debts within certain limits – precisely to avoid the kind of ballooning debt that is now weighing upon Greece.

“In order to prevent in future a crisis such as the one we’re now going through, we have to strengthen the originally agreed stability pact and guarantee adherence to it,” they wrote.

“Indeed, sanctions must take effect as early and as effectively as possible. Furthermore, member states must co-ordinate their economic and fiscal policies more closely than before and speak publicly with one voice.”

The latter is a reference to concerns that conflicting messages from big players including Germany, France and the European Central Bank have spooked markets, worsening Greece’s problems.

“The common currency needs constant solid state finances, clear regulations governing adherence to the stability pact, transparent structures and fair standards for competition. Only this way will the euro emerge stronger from the debt crisis. There is no serious alternative to the common currency.”

The Local/djw

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ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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