Merkel 'short-sighted' on retirement: Europe unions chief

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The new head of European trade unions, Bernadette Segol, on Thursday said calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on southern Europeans to retire later were "short-sighted."

"Ms Merkel's reaction is very short-sighted," Segol, 62, told AFP after her election at a four-day European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) in Athens.

"It is clear that things must change in the economies of the south but this cannot be done in one or two years," said Segol, who is French and previously headed a federation of European workers in banking and communication sectors.

"They must be given time and the means of changing their systems."

"And Ms Merkel should not forget that Germany has also benefited from its relations with the countries of the south, notably for its trade and exports," said the mother of four who replaced 66-year-old Briton John Monks.

Merkel was quoted by German press agency DPA as having said that people in southern Europe should retire later and take fewer holidays, in an apparent attempt to address voter anger about eurozone bailouts

"(People) in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal should not retire earlier than in Germany. We should all make the same efforts, this is important," DPA cited Merkel as saying late on Tuesday.

Merkel, who has come under fire for agreeing to bailouts worth tens of billions of euros (dollars) for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, also said that differences in holiday rules within Europe should be ironed out.

"We cannot have a currency (the euro) with one person getting lots of holiday and another person very little. Long term this can't work," the 56-year-old was quoted as saying at a party event in Meschede, western Germany.

Germany is in the process of raising its retirement age from 65 to 67.

Greece last year raised the retirement age from 60 to 65 under the terms of a sweeping austerity overhaul of its deficit-ridden economy that required a bailout from the EU and the IMF to avert bankruptcy.

But this and other measures have failed to meet the designated targets because a deep recession partly neutralised billions of euros of spending cuts and Greece could be in need of another bailout soon.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) includes 82 confederations from 36 countries and 12 continental federations. The grouping meets every four years.

Europe's trade unions largely reject the assessment of the continent's financial and economic crisis adopted by leading politicians in Brussels, London and Frankfurt.

© 2011 AFP

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