Germany finds itself back in power in Europe: Germany is the unquestioned boss amid Europe’s debt crisis and economic woes. But the turnaround has inspired discomfort among its neighbors and among Germans.
The leadership role thrust onto Germany is turning out to be a minefield in many ways, complicated by the nation’s past. Berlin is caught in a classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position, its every move fodder for critics eager to spot signs either of Teutonic belligerence or a failure to exercise power responsibly.
Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel casts her vote on the Greek bailout fund in Parliament in Berlin. Potentially the fate of the global economy now lies in Germany’s hands as it heads the effort to keep heavily indebted Greece from going under. Credit: Michele Tantussi / Bloomberg
Photo: Friedrichskoog, Germany — A young gray seal peeks out of partly frozen water at a breeding station. Credit: Carsten Rehder / DPA
Germany has the economic strengths America once boasted: Germany with its manufacturing base and export prowess is the U.S. of yesteryear, an economic power unlike any of its European neighbors. It has thrived on principles America seems to have lost.
The couple, in their early 50s, aren’t retired or well off. They live in a small Tudor-style house in this middle-class town about 30 miles northwest of Frankfurt. He’s a foreman at a glass factory; she works part time for a company that tracks inventories for retailers. Their combined income is a modest $40,000.
Yet the Krugers have a higher standard of living than many Americans who have twice that income.
Their secret: little debt, frugal habits and a government that is intensely focused on high production, low inflation and extensive social services.
That has given them job security and good medical care as well as well-maintained roads, trains and bike paths. Both of their adult children are out on their own, thanks in part to Germany’s job-training system and heavy subsidies for university education.
For instance, Volkmar’s out-of-pocket costs for stomach surgery and 10 days in a hospital totaled just $13 a day. College tuition for their son runs about $260 a semester.
Photo: Vera and Volkmar Kruger, seen here in the town of Limburg, Germany, not far from their home in Elz, earn about $40,000 a year but live as well as an American couple making twice as much. Credit: Don Lee / Los Angeles Times
Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany — Visitors stand around a snow church just after its inauguration in Mitterfirmiansreut. The church is made of 1,400 cubic meters of snow and aims to commemorate the winter of the years 1910/1911, when so much snow fell that believers of Mitterfirmiansreut were unable to go to church in neighboring Mauth, so they decided to build their own church — made of snow.
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Photo credit: Armin Weigel / AFP/Getty Images
Lightning illuminates a field of wind turbines during heavy thunderstorms in the Jacobsdorf, Germany.
Photo credit: Patrick Pleul / DPA
Photo of the day: A visitor takes pictures of “Blue Sheep,” sculptures made up of saturated polyester resin, in front of the local parliament building in Kiel, Germany. Artists Rainer Bonk and German Berta-Maria Reetz set up the sculptures for one day during a tour of the country. According to the artists, it aims to draw attention to the environment.
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Photo credit: Carsten Rehder / EPA