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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wow! This will trigger some discussion in Germany! (and elsewhere)

Robert-Bosch-Group is one of Germany’s most prominent multinationals. It is a symbol for the real economy (as opposed to the shadow economy of financial markets). When the Chairman of the RBG talks publicly in Germany, it is like Warren Buffett talking publicly in the US.

Manager-Magazin will publish an interview with Franz Fehrenbach, CEO of RBG, on February 17. Excerpts have been made public today.

Mr. Fehrenbach calls on Greece to leave the EU and the Eurozone. He calls the Greek system “rotten” and describes Greece as an unbearable burden for a solidarity union. "This country of phantom pensioners and rich tax evaders, a state without a functioning administration has no place in the EU". If necessary, the EU should expel Greece from the EU.

I see two possibilities: either Manager-Magazin will be pressured not to publish this interview or, if not, this interview will cause shock waves in Germany, if not in other countries as well.


  1. Good evening Klaus,

    Let me start by saying that I value your opinion very much. Here and around other blogs. It is often well put and very well argumented.

    Concerning this post I have a question: I don’t understand why this would cause shockwaves in Germany as it seems to be the opinion of a majority of people there? And I can’t say that the government is totally clear in his/her public commitment to Greece’s continued membership either.

  2. I would just think that this is the first time a prominent person breaks a taboo. Many people might think that way (and probably do) but no one wants to be blamed for being the first one to have suggested a Greek EU-exit. If many people feel that way but hold back their opinions for political correctness, all of this could break loose once the taboo is broken. Well, we'll know in a few days, for sure!

    1. Thank you for this insight. Living and working here in Greece makes it difficult to get a good picture of what really is going on in Germany. And this helps built that up a bit.

  3. Mr. Fehrenbach was happily selling all is products so far to the 'burden' of the EU, am I mistaken? (along with the beautiful and infamous collaborations with siemens and many others) so the least he can do is SHUT THE F***K UP.

  4. I appreciate this view from the Greek side (if it comes from the Greek side). But it is not supported by facts.

    While Greece has bought a lot from Siemens, Bosch et. al., the Greek market is really a very small market. From 2007-10, Greek imports from Germany accounted for a grand total of 0,7% of total German exports. So no facts-oriented businessman will really lose sleep over the risk of losing 0,7% of his sales in exchange for getting a big problem behind him.

    The new twist here is the idea of an EU-expulsion. Despite all speculations of late, Greece cannot be expelled from the Eurozone (there isn't either a proviso in treaties for Greece to leave the Eurozone voluntarily).

    However, leaving the EU is contractually possible as is possible an expulsion from the EU. And an EU-departure automatically means also a Euro-departure. This is why, in my opinion, Fehrenbach's interview is such a major change in direction.

    I may be totally wrong. In a week we will know. Perhaps this interview comes and goes without setting anything on fire. That would be good.
    My stomach, however, tells me that this could start a forest fire. Let's hope I am wrong.

    1. The CEO of Linde, Wolfgang Reitzle, triggered a very similar discussion a couple of weeks ago, suggesting Germany should leave the Euro.

      I don´t really think Fehrenbach will change anything. Actually the new controversial discussions and initiatives within the EP are more interesting in this respect.,1518,815502,00.html

    2. I hope you are right! The thing is that no one has dared so far to question Greece's belonging to the EU while in the minds of many that is the real question (archaic public administration; state of law not functioning properly; by far highest EU-rating on corruption; etc.). Once that taboo is broken, it could open a pandora's box.

      We'll see in a few days...

  5. Good morning Herr Kastner

    that these voices are begining to be heard in the mainstream media - even the periphery - must mean that someone's mind has changed.

    Furthermore, I doubt that there will be any shockwaves in any other areas than the banking sector.

    This is not exactly news, is it?

    Most reasonably educated Germans and Dutch knew about Greece's situation from the start - if only because like you, they visited the place on holiday and stayed with ordinary Greeks*.

    Unlike the Ratings agencies agents who stay in the penthouse of a posh hotel with a view of the acropolis, travel by limosine to posh meetings and eat at the hotel because they do not like foreign food.

    *I know you visit for longer than just a holiday, but surely on holiday one would get the sense that something was going on?

  6. You may be interested to hear that doubts about the Greek capability to reform are also being voiced elsewhere,
    and here:

  7. Indeed there is a shift to opinions all around Europe. For me personally, this guy who comes out with a king's speech and interview does not even deserve the title of Mr., should really stick to his business which is the private sector. And if I may ask, since sales account for only 0,70% of German exports then why is he so concerned? Does this have to do with the haircut and the private sector in some way?
    Bottom line is he is in no position to make such outrageous and enraging statements. We are not talking about some subsidiary company of his group or similar. This concerns 10 million PEOPLE. NOT vac. cleaners, drillers and machine washers. Someone should clarify this to him.