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A construction worker directs work on the roof of the Acropolis Museum in Athens March 21, 2006. (JOHN KOLESIDIS/REUTERS/JOHN KOLESIDIS/REUTERS)
A construction worker directs work on the roof of the Acropolis Museum in Athens March 21, 2006. (JOHN KOLESIDIS/REUTERS/JOHN KOLESIDIS/REUTERS)

Are Greeks really the hardest working Europeans? They certainly think so Add to ...

The Greeks are Europe’s hardest-working citizens, according to the Greeks. It’s not a widely-shared view. Ask other Europeans to finger the continent’s laziest folk and they’ll point, with some unanimity, to the Greeks.

Not surprising, perhaps. But beyond some odious stereotyping, a survey of European attitudes also shows declining faith in the euro, the currency shared by 17 nations, and other financial pillars of the sweeping transnational experiment, even as solid majorities in most countries continue to back the broad notion of the 27-nation European Union.

Scratch the veneer of European unity with a long-running financial crisis and some nasty old prejudices emerge. But even widely diverse Europeans agree on a few things.

For instance, Poles, Greeks and the French all regard the Germans as Europe’s least corrupt people. So do the Germans.

As for the most corrupt, nearly everyone, including the Italians, regard Italy as Europe’s most corrupt nation. The only disagreement comes from the Greeks, Poles and Czechs, who smear their own compatriots as even more corrupt than the sticky-fingered Italians.

A revealing poll of European and American attitudes published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project based on surveys conducted in eight European Union Nations and the United States, found much gloom and some sobering realities for leaders trying to maintain public support even as they dish out tough austerity programs.

In their overview, Pew’s researchers said: “What started out four years ago as a sovereign debt crisis morphed into a euro currency crisis and led to the fall of several European governments, has now triggered a full-blown crisis of public confidence: in the economy, in the future, in the benefits of European economic integration, in membership in the European Union, in the euro and in the free market system.”

By contrast, attitudes about the future are sunnier in the United States, where a majority, albeit small, believe the economy will improve over the next year. In all eight of the European countries surveyed – Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Poland – solid majorities felt things would get worse.

Ominously for European leaders seeking to impose greater fiscal discipline on over-spending national governments, the survey found “almost no support for the recently agreed upon pact giving Brussels greater oversight of national budgets.”

As for the leaders: Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gets high praise. Four in five Germans, almost as many French and majorities in most surveyed countries approve of the tight-fisted Ms. Merkel’s handling of the ongoing crisis. The outlier is Greece, where her approval rating sags to 14 per cent.

As for who toils the most, the poll’s finding will surely produce snickers throughout much of the 27-nation EU, with a population of more than 500 million. The Greeks regard themselves as Europe’s hardest-working citizens; everyone else polled gave the nod to the Germans.

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