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Germans Stand Alone in Fretting About Debt, EU Survey Shows

Germans are alone in the European Union in calling government debt the most pressing economic problem, contrasting with more relaxed attitudes toward red ink even in traditionally tight-budget countries, a poll showed.

With the euro zone in recession, 34 percent of Germans labeled debt as the “most important issue,” according to an EU-sponsored survey released in Brussels today. Debt didn’t make the list of top priorities in Finland and the Netherlands, Germany’s closest crisis-fighting allies.

“Perceptions of the national economic situation remain very gloomy, continuing a trend that began in 2007,” the European Commission said. “Germany is the only member state where government debt is the main worry.”

Grassroots German sentiment underlies Chancellor Angela Merkel’s handling of the debt crisis, limiting her room for concessions as she campaigns for re-election in 2013. While Germany, the biggest source of bailout funds, eased up on deficit-cutting demands this year, debt relief for countries like Greece remains taboo.

Joblessness is the dominant preoccupation in 18 countries, including the four -- Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain -- tapping financial aid. Overall, 48 percent of EU citizens ranked unemployment as the main concern, followed by 37 percent citing the “economic situation” and 24 percent mentioning inflation.

The semi-annual survey provided fresh evidence of Europe’s north-south economic divide, with 75 percent in Germany and Sweden calling the national economic situation “good.” Only 2 percent in Spain and 1 percent in Greece shared that view.

Euro Endorsed

German bullishness on the economy carried over into an endorsement of staying with the euro. The proportion of Germans in favor of the single currency rose by 4 percentage points to 69 percent from the previous survey in May.

While attitudes toward the euro ebbed in aid-reliant economies, the currency scored favorability ratings above 60 percent in 14 of the 17 countries using it. It fell short of majority appeal only in Cyprus, the next aid candidate, where 48 percent were in favor.

The Eurobarometer polled 500 to 1,500 people in each of the 27 EU countries between Nov. 3-18. The margin of error for national results ranged from 1.9 percent to 4.4 percent, a chart indicated.

To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at jneuger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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