Hours after returning from a trip to Athens, Deutsche Bank executive Jürgen Fitschen said in his keynote address to the Global Business Dialogue that Greece was suffering from a disconnect between the political leaders and the rest of the country, but that it was too early to begin discussing a Greek exit from the euro.
Fitschen, who is set to become a co-CEO of Deutsche Bank on May 31, saw a different Greece on his visit than the one that’s been so harshly portrayed in the media in recent months.
“I’m afraid that the perception of Greece in our media is not balanced enough,” he told the audience of German and American business leaders and students. “Now I’m struggling to find the right balance.” But he’s convinced that the media narrative about the growing inevitability of a Greek departure from the euro zone is misguided.
“The question is no longer if Greece is going to leave the euro zone, but how it will leave the euro zone,” he said of the discussion in the press and the public. “My view is very clear: We should not talk so much about the exit.”
Fitschen’s experience in Greece backed up what many polls have shown: that despite Greek resistance to the harsh austerity measures imposed on them by euro zone leaders, few Greeks want a return to the drachma. “I have not found a single greek person who volunteered to leave the euro,” Fitschen said. “No matter how much they complain about the pain being inflicted on them right now, you won’t find people who want to leave the euro.”
Calling Greece a “failed state,” Fitschen marveled at the lack of communication between the country’s politicians and its business leaders and citizens. “What struck me most is that the political elite is totally isolated from the rest of the country,” he said.
Unlike Portugal and Ireland, which also received bailouts, Greece doesn’t have any trusted politicians, making a productive dialogue between the country’s political leaders and its population nearly impossible, Fitschen said. Tourism has suffered from structural impediments to entrepreneurship.