Merkel launches new pro-EU campaign in Germany

AFP , Thursday 23 Aug 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicks off a new campaign to persuade the Germans of the benefits of European unity amid a severe eurozone debt crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, October 18, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

Chancellor Angela Merkel launched a campaign Thursday to persuade Germans of the benefits of European unity, as polls show rising euroscepticism in the continent's top economy amid the near three-year crisis.

Merkel kicked off the new campaign, called "I want Europe", with a video message extolling the virtues of European cooperation, saying it had brought "peace, prosperity and understanding with our neighbours.""We are living through one of Europe's worst crises. This crisis has built up over many years and will therefore take a long time to overcome. It will be difficult.

"But I am deeply convinced that at the end of this path, we will have a sustainable and strengthened eurozone and European Union," said Merkel.

"I want Europe" brings together politicians past and present including the country's President Joachim Gauck, Merkel and former chancellor Helmut Schmidt, with celebrities including German football captain Philipp Lahm. It is backed by 11 academic institutes and several media groups.

With all eyes on Germany, Europe's effective paymaster, to solve the eurozone debt crisis, surveys have shown Germans are increasingly weary of bailing out debt-wracked countries such as Greece.A poll last week in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung showed that only 50 percent of Germans would vote in favour of staying in the euro in a hypothetical referendum on the subject.

The campaign was launched just hours before Merkel hosts French President Francois Hollande for eurozone crisis talks likely to focus on Greece, before Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visits Berlin on Friday.

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