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5live's Backpackers' Guide to the Eurozone: Roll up, roll up, any money for Greece?

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 08:15 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

So a group of think tanks are predicting a big slow down in the German economy. The German parliament has overwhelmingly supported an increase in funds for the bailout pot for countries that use the euro and get into trouble. But opinion polls here suggest many German people are nervous about handing over too much money to others. The self styled 'powerhouse' of the European economy may be in relatively rude health now, but things are beginning to look ominous.

So time for a completely unscientific experiment. We got hold of a dirty great big yellow envelope, and tastefully scribbled 'Greece' on it in red felt tip pen. We emptied our pockets and put some coins in the envelope - and then headed for Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station.

Chris Mason and his money for Greece envelope

We then got chatting to passing German commuters to get a snapshot of the national mood. When we jangled our envelope, would people, hypothetically, chip in with some money for Greece? Clearly, we approached people at random, in one city, at one time. But, having spent ten years as a reporter having thousands of conversations like this, I think they can still be instructive.

I know some people will sneer and snigger at the daft mechanic we dreamt up for this stunt. It's simply a way to engage - both those we approached and the audience, on radio and online, and from the feedback we've had, it worked. In my job the minute I fail to engage I am done for. Given I spend my life trying to breathe life, enthusiasm and interest into often dry, arcane subjects, if that requires an unashamedly populist approach to a very 'broadsheet' issue, that's fine by me.

For the record, of those people we spoke to, some were openly hostile to contributing more to bailout funds. But most said, for now at least, it was the right thing to do. And as you can read in our feature piece on this subject for BBC News Online, this isn't pure altruism. The German economy is powered by exports and Germans don't want their neighbours not to have any money to spend.

Chris Mason is 5live's Political Reporter. He has been travelling around the Eurozone all week, reporting for 5live, the 5live blog, BBC News Online and on Twitter. You can read the feature from Greece here, from Italy here, Germany here and Belgium here.


  • Comment number 1.

    Greece has greased too many palms in the past and now they have run out of funds and are seeking alms they can't understand why people (including their own) do not want contribute any more to the flopper's coffers.

    The euro zone is rapidly becoming the "you-row if you like, I've had enough, I'm off."


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