Off the Mark: Why Ditching the Euro Would Be a Bad Idea

By Sven Böll

Even before the current crisis, many Germans dreamed of ditching the euro and re-embracing their beloved deutsche mark. In a five-part series, SPIEGEL ONLINE responds to the myths surrounding the euro vs. deutsche mark debate -- and shows why they are all wrong.

Many Germans want their beloved deutsche mark back. Zoom
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Many Germans want their beloved deutsche mark back.

Be honest, now: Do you actually remember what color the 50-deutsche mark bill was? Or what picture was on the back of a 10-mark bill? Or which coin didn't have an eagle or an oak sprig on its reverse side?

If put on the spot, most Germans probably couldn't answer all -- or maybe even any -- of these questions. (If you're interested, here are the answers: The 50-mark bill was yellowish-brown, the back of the 10-mark bill bore an image of a sextant, and the reverse of the 50-pfennig coin showed a kneeling woman planting an oak seedling.)

Although very few Germans can remember exactly what the deutsche mark bills and coins that served as the currency of the Federal Republic of Germany for over 50 years looked like, a whole lot of them believe that everything was better when they used it.

In fact, surveys show that half of all Germans would like their old currency back. A majority of them considers the good old deutsche mark a better currency than the new and supposedly bad euro.

The Five Big Myths

There's no denying that the euro has gone through some rough times, and that it isn't out of the woods yet. The near-bankruptcies of Greece and Ireland last year weren't exactly good advertisements for the benefits of Europe's common currency. Still, it's also true that -- even if its detractors take great pleasure in suggesting so -- not all of these problems can be attributed to the euro itself. To put it bluntly, Germany still had plenty of problems even when it had the deutsche mark.

In Germany, at least, you can't talk about the future of the euro without talking about the deutsche mark, and it's a debate that shows no sign of going away. And whether it's an avowed euroskeptic speaking, or just someone waxing nostalgic about the mark, it almost always seems to be the same five myths that crop up:

  • No one ever asked the Germans if they wanted the euro.
  • The euro is a much worse currency than the deutsche mark.
  • The European Union basically means that everybody else benefits while Germany foots the bill.
  • It wouldn't be that hard to dissolve the currency union.
  • European integration can work just as well without the euro.

It's high time to inject a bit of reality into the debate and counter these misconceptions with a few hard facts. In the coming days, a five-part SPIEGEL ONLINE series will individually address each of these myths.

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Germans are skeptical of the euro and favor a tough line on ailing euro-zone economies. Zoom
DER SPIEGEL

Germans are skeptical of the euro and favor a tough line on ailing euro-zone economies.


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