Global Investing

Can the euro zone survive Greece?

November 30, 2009

Wolfgang Munchau, co-founder and president of Eurointelligence, has raised an uncomfortable prospect for investors in Greece. In a Financial Times column today, the long-time Europe commentator argues that Brussels may not be willing to bail Greece out if it were to default on its debt à la all-but sovereign Dubai World is about to.

The EU’s authorities, rightly or wrongly, are more afraid of the moral hazard of a bail-out than the possible spillover effect of a hypothetical Greek default to other eurozone countries. If faced with a choice between preserving the integrity of the stability pact and the integrity of Greece, they are currently minded to choose the former.

Munchau reckons that outright default is unlikely, but wonders whether the current spread between Greek and benchmark German bonds really reflects the risk that investors are taking.  It is currently around 178 basis points after recovering from a blow out on Dubai worries last week.

The overriding problem is that consecutive Greek governments have been unable to force through the kinds of reforms that Europe and others have long called for and which being a euro zone member really entails.

Even when Greece qualified for the euro zone back in 2000, it was said that it had made it without having to take the harsh steps other had. Promises were made, but when it comes to austerity, the Greek public won’t hear of it. Greeks take to the streets with a speed and passion that makes French unions look positively Thatcherite.

Greece’s new government is probably going to get a diplomatic pasting from its EU partners when its budget is discussed later this week. So Greece may well be on a collision course with Brussels, which sometime in the future may have to decide whether it is going to be sugar daddy or stern patriarch.

The underlying issue, of course, is whether the euro zone could take the strain of a default within its family. U.S. states can suffer huge difficulties without the future of the dollar coming into question. But what about the still-young euro?

Comments
6 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Dear Jeremy,Mr Almunia answered the question today. The EU will not allow Greece to default. It is pretty clear that Greece is being singled out for allow me to say reasons that are quite suspect. It is not as if Spain, Portugal and some of the other Eastern European states have not got similar or even worse probelms. Obviously, the speculators are enjoying the ride. So, lets not reward them by gracing their views.

Posted by Van T | Report as abusive
 

VanI think it is possible that Greece is left out to dry on this one. There is a lot of discontent from countries like Germany that are paying heavily into the EU when countries like Greece are welfare beneficiaries of the EU for decades and make no reforms.Greece has three options. Rely on Europe to say ‘do what you want and we will still bail you out’ – which is not a message Europe wants to send; an austerity package – where Europe says enough is enough (I fear this is most likely) – which will kill us economically – but is better than the third option; we get dumped from the EMU, our banks are frozen and overnight our currency is lasered to become NeoDrachma which will be automatically devalued.Sad to say most of us have become used to welfare – in the form of high paid public sector jobs.

Posted by Stam Birsim | Report as abusive
 

The Union and the Euro are doomed. Entrants such as Greece and others should never been allowed to join having not fulfilled the basic requirements.Turkey will be the straw that breaks the camels back.It is all over bar the shouting.

Posted by Coates | Report as abusive
 

as a amatter of COURSE You have suggested your veiw as to the definition of the underlying issue and hence your view of the overriding problem. I would like to widen by reference to the Phrase Centrally planned economy and Oversight of same. Twined with Elements of Marxist Progressive tax Theory. And Ricardos Fair wages for Work. But i shall not as it appears outside and extranius to your artical except for the subset intersection where it intersects with the Passion and Protest that you allude to but seem unable to Quantify for reasons best known to youself.

Posted by Eden and Apple | Report as abusive
 

Very nice article on economic point of view.Generally speaking, Greece is neither a big or small country with agriculture and industrial productions.She is famous in history and tourism sectors.Due to very strong mind set on welfare policies and implementations by previous and existing governments have made a messy affair on finance and some losses on industrial fronts.She has to adjust,adopt a new economic and social pattern for a member in European Union and immediate strong austerity measures for prevention.Either to swim against sudden strong current or sinking in the damaged boat.Running any government on strong economic set up or facing some unexpected set back are very difficult.New wisdom is required for quick actions against financial collapse.

 

It is very unfortunate that corrupt political figures put party and private welfare above national interests. The shortsighted micro-politics of almost all post-1974 governments in combination with nepotism, lack of meritocracy and a selfish approach in the accumulation of private wealth seem to be responsible for the misfortunes of the Greek economy. Surely, the external war threats – either real or fictitious – put Greece in an endless struggle for military supremacy thus condemning it to never recover.

Posted by A Zaimes | Report as abusive
 

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