Germans still positive on Ireland despite euro zone crisis


OPINION POLL:Most Irish people believe EU’s largest and most powerful state is doing what it can for euro zone

THE REMARKABLE feature of the Irish Times poll on German/ Irish attitudes is just how well the relationship between the states has survived the euro zone crisis.

It appears a substantial majority of Germans have retained a positive view of Ireland despite the fact that they believe they are being asked to do too much for the euro zone.

The other side of the equation is that a clear majority of Irish people have not been influenced by the anti-German rhetoric emanating from a range of politicians and high-profile media commentators.

The evidence of the poll is that a substantial majority of people in Ireland believe “our gallant allies in Europe” are doing what they can for the euro zone.

People in both countries have very similar views on which of the bailout states are, or are not, trying hard enough to fix their economies.

The Germans rate Ireland far higher than any of the other bailout countries and, not surprisingly, we also rate ourselves higher than the other troubled countries.

In both countries a majority of two to one believe Ireland is trying hard to fix the economy. Surprisingly, a greater percentage of Irish people than Germans believe that we should be trying harder to fix our economic mess.

People in both countries firmly agree that Greece is not trying hard enough, while they each have a more benign view of Portugal and Spain.

In the case of both these countries a significant minority of Irish and German people believe that they are doing enough, but a majority in both countries take the view they should try harder.

There were also remarkably similar responses in Germany and Ireland about which country, if any, should leave the European Union as a result of the crisis.

Just 3 per cent of Germans thought Ireland should leave, while 9 per cent of Irish people thought we should go. That figure probably represents the hardline Eurosceptic minority in Ireland who believe we would be better off outside the EU.

There was broad agreement in both countries about what should happen to the other bailout countries: 42 per cent of Germans and 34 per cent of Irish people think Greece should leave the EU, but very small numbers of both countries would like to see an exit by Spain or Portugal.

One very interesting feature of the poll is 49 per cent of Germans don’t want to see any of the bailout countries leaving the EU in spite of the fact that a majority of them, 52 per cent, believe that their country is being asked to do too much for the euro zone.

The fact that almost half the German respondents want to keep Greece in the EU, in spite of their belief that that country is not trying hard enough to fix its economy, is evidence of a continuing commitment to the European project.

The Irish response to the same question is also fascinating. The 20 per cent of Irish people who think Germany is being asked to do too much to save the euro zone almost cancels out the 24 per cent who believe it is not doing enough.

When put together with the fact that 44 per cent of Irish respondents believe that Germany is doing just enough to save the euro zone, the majority attitude here towards Germany is positive.

The view in Ireland that none of the bailout countries should leave the EU is almost identical with the view in Germany. In the Irish case 51 per cent of respondents say that none of the troubled countries should leave.

There were some amusing discrepancies between the views expressed when it came to comparing the two countries on a number of fronts.

Not surprisingly people in both countries strongly agree with the indisputable fact that Germany has the stronger economy.

However, Germans believe that Irish people work longer hours, while Irish people believe that Germans work longer hours.

People in both countries agree that taxes on business are lower in Ireland but Germans believe that Irish workers have lower taxes than they have, while the Irish think the Germans pay less tax.

There is also some divergence on which country pays its public sector workers more than their private sector counterparts.

Germans believe that higher salaries for public servants are more likely to apply in their own country than in Ireland.

By contrast Irish respondents were even more firmly of the view that public service workers here are likely to be paid more than the private sector.

The fact that some divergences emerged on these questions is understandable, given the limited knowledge that people in each country inevitably have about the detail of the taxation system or labour market in the other.

They are an exception to the overall thrust of the poll, which shows remarkably similar views in the biggest and most powerful EU country in the EU and one on the western periphery.