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Talking Europe

EU economy: Is the north punishing the south?

The EU is sleepwalking towards a cliff - words of warning from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who says austerity rules are creating inequalities across the bloc. Greek national debt is set to reach over 180% of GDP and this week Tsipras rallied leaders of six southern EU countries to join him in a bid to form a united group: a front to fight for debt restructuring and act as a counterweight to the pressure of austerity measures prescribed by countries in the north.

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Eight years after the start of the country's financial crisis, unemployment in Greece is still the highest in the EU and Athens is facing another standoff with creditors as complaints grow that it has implemented only two of 15 reforms required by its bailout deal.

But Greece is not alone in its economic woes: Italy's banks are close to breaking. Meanwhile, Germany recorded a larger than expected budget surplus and looks set to record its third year in the black in a row. Brussels is trying to push Berlin to spend more in order to stimulate the EU-wide economy.

So are northern EU states being too harsh on the south? And what might an "alliance of the south" achieve?

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