The country's policies, intended to boost exports, have hurt the eurozone as a whole. Fortunately, there may be a solution.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at party convention in Leipzig / Reuters
BERLIN -- On a recent trip to Greece, I visited my aunt in her Athens apartment. I'd arrived from Berlin, and she, like many Greeks these days, wanted to talk about Germany in not the nicest terms.
"The Germans are so strict!" she said, feeling, as do most of her compatriots, under the thumb of German-backed austerity measures. After all, she added, Greeks had for long been such loyal buyers of German products.
In order to illustrate this point, she pinched the collar on her button-up blouse. The shirt, she said, was made in Germany. She then pointed to the pot in which she was warming up the lunch she had prepared for us. It was also made in Germany. So was the oven, for that matter, and the refrigerator too. And as she pointed out later, even the porcelain cup with which she was drinking her coffee. "But what," my aunt asked, "do the Greeks sell back?"
She was alluding to a very important and often overlooked point. Since the advent of the euro currency, Germany has maintained a trade surplus, with about 40 percent of its exports going to other eurozone nations. But German policies meant to bolster these exports are now increasingly coming under the scrutiny of some economists, who blame German practices for some of the structural problems at the core of the eurozone's problems.