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June 15, 2012

In Greece, Germans are viewed as Europe's penny-pinchers, who are putting pressure on Athens. Greek author Petros Markaris explains how the euro crisis is affecting ties between the two countries.

Petros Markaris
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Greek author Petros Markaris was born in 1937 in Istanbul and currently lives in Athens. He has attained international success with his novels about Detective Costas Haritos, into which he incorporates current developments in the country. Markaris has many fans in Germany. He has also written a number of plays, co-authored screenplays with filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, and translated the works of German playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

DW: Would you recommend that Germans go on vacation to Greece to these days? Or will they be met with a bad vibe?

Petros Markaris: We live in times of exaggeration - everything is exaggerated. German friends of mine who traveled to Crete did not encounter any hostility. It could be that Greeks feel abandoned and disappointed by the Germans. It could also be that some protest and complain that Germany is treating Greece disparagingly. But that doesn't mean that the Greeks are aggressive toward the Germans. I see no problem encouraging Germans to travel to Greece.

Where does this anger come from? There have even been incidences of the German flag being burned. Don't the Greeks understand that belts have to be tightened?

There is anger that manifests itself in an extreme way in Greece. But I also come across similar disappointment with Germany in Spain and Italy. It's not just a Greek phenomenon.

What is the attitude among Greeks living in Germany? How do they perceive the political and economic crisis in Greece?

I often travel through Germany and meet up with Greek people. Greeks in Germany are now afraid that they constantly have to explain their country. That makes them a bit insecure. They think that they owe the Germans an explanation for what has happened in Greece. Which isn't the case. The Greeks in Germany are Germans with a Greek background and they're not responsible for explaining their parents' country.

A girl peers under a polling booth while her mother prepares to vote at a polling station in Athens during Greece's general election May 6, 2012. Angry Greek voters head to the polls on Sunday for an election shrouded in uncertainty that could reignite Europe's debt crisis and renew doubts about the country's future in the euro zone. REUTERS/Panayiotis Tzamaros (GREECE - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Greece can't afford a third round of elections, says MarkarisImage: Reuters

Do the Greeks living in Germany view Greek politics differently than those living in Greece?

Definitely. The German-Greeks criticize the Greek government and the situation there much more than the Germans do. And they don't understand why the country is responding so badly to the situation. I am regularly confronted with the question of why Greece isn't doing what's necessary - this question doesn't just come from Germans, but also from German-Greeks. Both find it difficult to understand what is happening in Greece right now.

There has always been a healthy cultural exchange between both countries, in theater but also literature. Has that suffered?

The exchange still exists. It hasn't suffered and wasn't interrupted. Currently, for example, the Berliner Schaubühne is performing in Greece. And in Berlin the Neuköllner Oper is performing "Yasou Aida!" The opera was produced by a Greek director and performed by Greek singers. It has been a huge success.

It's not true that cultural ties are suffering under the crisis between Germany and Greece - on the contrary. There is a sense of solidarity - German artists have an understanding for Greece.

In your 2010 book with Athens-based Inspector Costas Haritos, Greek bankers are murdered. Will your next novel also focus on the economic crisis?

Of course. My book, which is appearing in September in German under the title "Zahltag," is about a murderer who kills tax evaders in Greece. I'm also thinking about my next Haritos novel. I have the topic, but I'm going to wait for the results in next week's elections. The novel should come out in Greek by Christmas 2012.

Will the elections on June 17, 2012 be the last for a while?

I would be happy if I knew that. But I can say, for one thing, that in the last elections on May 6, 2012 most people made protest votes. That's why the two major parties, the conservative New Democracy and the socialist Pasok, lost so dramatically, handing the smaller, extreme parties large gains.

My impression is that fear will play a decisive role in the next election. The people are afraid; they want to stay in the European Union and in the euro zone. The extreme parties have other goals.

The country can't afford to have a third round of elections. I hope that a government can be formed after the second round. The country can't afford to remain ungovernable.

Who should the Greeks vote for this time?

My sister called me a few days ago and said, "You know, I'm going to vote for Antoni Samaris [eds: party chairman of New Democracy]. I was surprised because she'd never done that before and I asked her why. She answered, "I will hold my nose so I can't smell the stench and will vote for him because I have to. The country has to be governed."

That pretty much sums up the attitude in the country.

Interview: Klaudia Prevezanos / kjb
Editor: Joanna Impey

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