BERLIN (Reuters) - German frustration with Greece boiled over on Thursday as opinion polls, newspaper editorials and some politicians called for the deeply indebted country to leave the euro zone before it further endangers their prosperity.
The country’s best-selling daily Bild summed up the view in Germany that Greece had pushed things too far by calling for a referendum on its bailout deal.
“Take the euro away from the Greeks!” read Bild’s front-page banner headline. “We want our own referendum (on Greece in the euro zone) now.”
Until this week most Germans had grudgingly accepted their government’s view that there was no alternative to Greece staying in the euro and its exit would lead to greater turmoil.
That all seemed to change on Thursday.
A telephone call-in poll by all-news N-TV network found 96 percent wanted Greece to leave the euro zone.
A representative poll for the ARD network conducted by the infratest-dimap polling institute found that 82 percent believed Greece should leave unless it accepted the bailout deal.
The ARD poll also found 84 percent expected to get stuck with the bill for the Greek rescue. Germany is Europe’s largest economy and the European Union’s paymaster.
“That’s it,” Bild wrote. “We put up hundreds of billions of euros to save the bankrupt Greeks and now they’re going to have a referendum to decide if they’re going to agree to austerity measures. We want a referendum of our own now -- no more billions for Greece and Greece should leave the euro zone!”
Gert Wagner, the head of Germany’s DIW research institute, said Germans were simply fed up with the Greek-induced turmoil.
“A lot of people are just sick of all the unrest surrounding the euro and worries about their money,” Wagner said when asked why so many want to see Greece out of the euro zone. “I can understand that they want this to be over and not have to worry about their money every time they open a newspaper.”
But he added that it would be a “fatal mistake” to think Greece’s departure would resolve the problem. “Very few give any thought to the political stability of Europe being endangered if Greece gets thrown out,” he said.
Hermann-Otto Solms, a financial policy leader in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition, said Greece should nevertheless start thinking about leaving the euro zone.
“If the referendum fails, Greece has no other option but to leave the euro zone,” said Solms.
Merkel’s center-right coalition has been badly strained because a group of lawmakers in the ruling parties have voted against further support for Greece.
The leader of the center-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel, said Merkel should go to Athens -- with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy -- to convince their “conservative friends” in the opposition to support Papandreou’s austerity package and avoid a referendum defeat which would oust Greece from the euro.
“That would be the end,” Gabriel said. “There would be an unavoidable recession which would hit Germany hard too.”
Newspaper editorials have been merciless in their attacks on Greece. The Weser-Kurier daily in Bremen said Papandreou was “acting like a homeowner who first asks his tenants if it’s okay to use water to fight the fire. His idea is complete nonsense.”
The worsening euro crisis has hurt Merkel’s standing in Germany, with 50 percent now saying they do not want to see her win a third term in the next election due in 2013.
“You can see how the fears of the euro zone crisis are affecting voters,” said Forsa director Manfred Guellner. “People are afraid it’s going to negatively affect their prosperity. They want their leaders to stand up for their interests. Merkel doesn’t inspire the confidence she once did.”
Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrew Roche