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The financial crisis in Europe and the debate among EU leaders how to best address it will be played out on TV Friday evening – sort of.
??The Euro 2012 European soccer championships have entered the quarterfinals stage, and Friday’s primetime showdown between favorites Germany, Europe’s largest creditor, and outsider Greece, the continent’s biggest debtor nation, is creating particular media buzz across Europe.??
TV outlets and newspapers have played up the financial and political differences between the two countries, framing the match, which will be played in Gdansk, Poland, as a battle of German prudence against Greek financial and political turmoil.
“For months, Germans have been complaining of Greek profligacy, while Greeks have been griping about German bullying,” German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote on its web site Thursday under the headline “Greece and Germany Take Their Fight Outside.” “Now, the two countries will have it out on the football field. The symbolism of Friday night’s match has become difficult to ignore.”
?German tabloid Bild was less diplomatic. “Poor Greeks, your next bankruptcy is on us!” it trumpeted on its web site.
“Greeks stay in the Euro,” went the succinct headline on London’s Sun tabloid, nicely linking tournament and crisis, while the Guardian called Friday’s showdown “the ultimate grudge match,” pointing out how many Greeks blame Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel for their current plight.
That analysis seemed to be confirmed by the headlines in Greece.
“Bring us Merkel,” demanded Greek soccer paper Goal News. “You will never get Greece out of the Euro.”
“This is how your debtors qualify, Angela get ready,” added Sport Day, while Metro Sport promised the German chancellor that “you IMF our Greece, we TNT your Euro.”
Politicians and Germany’s coach have downplayed the political implications and any attempts to politicize the match.
But the parallels between action on the field and the political dealings behind the scenes will be impossible to ignore.
Especially as chancellor Merkel is expected to attend the game to support her team. She will attend the match after meetings with Italian, French and Spanish leaders in Rome earlier in the day, where the future of the German-led Euro rescue plan will be discussed.
Her presence may only motivate the Greeks. For many, Merkel has become a symbol of the painful austerity the Greeks feel Europe has imposed on them.
As the head of Europe’s largest economy the German chancellor has also been the key driving force behind the demand for spending cuts and structural reform in exchange for Greek’s financial bailouts.
Europe will closely follow Friday night’s match, but if film industry executives are worried about the financial state of Greece or fellow Southerners Spain, whose banks are being bailed out in the latest EU agreement to help financially struggling countries, and Italy, few openly voice such concerns.??
At the CineEurope gathering of European exhibitors, the Euro crisis wasn’t a major topic. Most European industry folks there and back in their home countries seem to be going about their business.?
Film industry observers say that the biggest impact of the financial weakness will be on the economies of the hurting countries, which could hurt their ability to buy films.??
Financial analysts say the financial problems in the South of Europe are most likely to keep a lid on advertising spending, thereby affecting TV companies.
??The new Greek government’s commitment to the Euro and the bailout of the Spanish banks “at least provide support and avoid further precipitous declines in household spend, in turn helping TV companies, which depend on advertising,” said Claudio Aspesi, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “[Italian and Spanish broadcasters] Mediaset, Mediaset Espana and Antena 3 all benefit from this. It may still be a slow decline, but it [is] preferable to a catastrophic cut to ad spending – not to mention the exit from the euro zone.”??
Amid the financial turmoil, some see a role for the film industry in mending damaged national reputations. “We’re going to take years to repair the damage done to the Spain brand, and Spanish cinema has a very important role to play in that effort,” said Pedro Perez, president of the Spanish Producers Federation FAPAE.??
The Wall Street Journal reported that Italy, France and Spain are trying to take a united stand against Germany to fight the euro zone debt crisis in new ways. ??Those three nations are also still in the Euro 2012 tournament and could be future opponents for the German team should it beat Greece, providing potential further political overtones to the tournament.?
Stuart Kemp in Barcelona and Pamela Rolfe in Madrid contributed to this report.
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