How long can the ECB kick the can down the road? How big a hole will Greece dig before the ECB, the EU, and IMF realize that “Plan A” (austerity will fix problems by 2013), cannot possibly work? Is the amount of money the EU, IMF, and ECB willing to throw at Greece unlimited?
Those are the questions on my mind as I read How the Euro Became Europe’s Greatest Threat on Der Spiegel
In the past 14 months, politicians in the euro-zone nations have adopted one bailout package after the next, convening for hectic summit meetings, wrangling over lazy compromises and building up risks of gigantic dimensions.
For just as long, they have been avoiding an important conclusion, namely that things cannot continue this way. The old euro no longer exists in its intended form, and the European Monetary Union isn’t working. We need a Plan B.
If it wasn’t for the euro, Greece’s debt crisis would be an isolated problem — one that was tough for the country, but easy for Europe to bear. It is only because Greece is part of the euro zone that Athens’ debts are a problem for all of its partners — and pose a threat to the common currency.
If the rest of Europe abandons Greece, the crisis could spin out of control, spreading from one weak euro-zone country to the next. Investors would have no guarantees that Europe would not withdraw its support from Portugal or Ireland, if push came to shove, and they would sell their government bonds. The prices of these bonds would fall and risk premiums would go up. Then these countries would only be able to drum up fresh capital by paying high interest rates, which would only augment their existing budget problems. It’s possible that they would no longer be able to raise any money at all, in which case they would become insolvent.
But if the current situation continues, the monetary union will invariably turn into a transfer union, a path the inventors of the euro were determined to prevent.
The euro’s founding fathers did not anticipate such a crisis, and thus did not include any provisions for it in the European Monetary Union’s set of regulations. The euro welds together strong and weak countries, for better or for worse. There is no emergency exit, and there are no rules to follow in an emergency — only the hope that everything will turn out well in the end.
The euro, created with the aim of permanently uniting Europe, has become the greatest threat to the continent’s future. A collapse of the monetary union would set Europe back by decades, dealing it a blow from which it might never recover, especially with Europe’s position already threatened by the fast-growing Asian economies. How is a fragmented Europe to prevail against this new competition?
This is why Europe’s politicians want to defend the euro at all costs, and why they are approving one bailout package after the next. They are playing for time, hoping that the markets will settle down and the reforms will take hold.
Those snips were all from the first page of a five page article. Inquiring minds may wish to give the link a closer look.
Lend-and-Pretend (Plan A) is clearly not working. Yet ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet insists it “must” work.
Because there is no Plan B, and more importantly Because Trichet insisted there be no Plan B. Such is the nature of stubborn, arrogant fools.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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