Germany's government is predicting a bright spring outlook for the economy. But with train strikes causing commuter misery and a Greek exit from the euro zone still a prospect there are obstacles, as Ivor Bennett reports.
3,000 train drivers at railway operator Deutsche Bahn are on strike - for a 7th time in 10 months. The 66-hour walkout has meant misery for commuters in Germany. And they're not used to it. (SOUNDBITE) (German) DEUTSCHE BAHN CUSTOMER, GUIDO SOMMER, SAYING: "I don't think very highly of the strike. I always thought train strikes mainly happen in France. Now Germany is seriously affected. We really need to be careful how it affects German industry." Around a fifth of the freight in Germany is transported by rail. And industry leaders say the strike could cost businesses up to 100 million euros a day. But it seems Germany can afford it. The government's spring outlook is particularly optimistic, with an already record-high number of jobs expected to grow even further. Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER, SIGMAR GABRIEL, SAYING: "The low euro exchange rate and the low oil price is giving German exporters, in particular small and medium-sized companies, considerably better prospects and it suggests we will continue to have sustainable growth in employment." Russia's economic woes over Ukraine had a big impact on Germany last year. And fears over energy supplies remain. But Credit Agricole's Adam Myers says the economy is firmly back on track. SOUNDBITE (English) ADAM MYERS, FOREX, CREDIT AGRICOLE, SAYING: "Corporate sentiment is improving and there are tentative signs that hiring is improving also, and that of course will help German earnings and therefore the economy in terms of spending throughout the rest of the year." Greece could yet put a spanner in the works. But Germany's gain could also help Athens. SOUNDBITE (English) ADAM MYERS, FOREX, CREDIT AGRICOLE, SAYING: "Forcing another country into significant fiscal contraction when in your own country there is a loosening of the strings does weaken your position, and that could be reflected when we get down to the Greek default negotiations in June." Some workers clearly want to share the rewards. The GDL union represents around one in ten of Deutsche Bahn's near 200,000 workers. It wants a five percent pay rise and a shorter 37-hour working week.