The Great Debate UK

The euro zone marriage is over

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By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Under the Arc de Triomphe, tourists can gaze up at the engraved list of Napoleon’s great victories: Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram… Perhaps a similar triumphal arch should be built in Brussels to commemorate the string of victories won by a tiny band of heroic Eurocrats over the mass of their combined electorates: Rome, Maastricht, Lisbon, Wroclaw, and now Berlin, where, to nobody’s surprise, the integrationists in the Bundestag have easily seen off the opposition to their plan to bolster the EFSF. Cue the now-familiar backslapping in Europe after each of their knife-edge victories over the forces of democracy.

The starting point for these Eurocrats/integrationists is that the popular will is simply an obstacle on the road to the ultimate destination of a United States of Europe. Whenever they encounter one of these inconvenient roadblocks, they fume, argue among themselves about the merits of alternative routes until they finally swerve triumphantly round the obstacle, congratulating each other for their ingenuity and skill.

The trouble is that this game gets more dangerous at each stage. In the present case, it is reported that three out of four German voters is opposed to supporting Greece and co., and they’ve not even started paying for it yet. Moreover, it is not as though the largesse is going to create a reservoir of gratitude alongside the Mediterranean – far from it. Judging by reactions in Greece, the outcome will be a legacy of bitterness for decades to come.

It is important to realise that arguments about the cost of saving the euro zone are ultimately sterile, because under current conditions there is no limit to the commitment that the Germans are being asked to make – a point which is not lost on people in Germany. The €440bn additional funding for the EFSF sanctioned by the Bundestag is simply a first instalment, sufficient to cover the cost of propping up the bond markets on the assumption that it will prevent contagion from the Greek imbroglio – which, of course, there already is aplenty. It is several months too late to stop the panic spreading beyond the original porcine four – Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain – to engulf Italy and even to some extent France. Back-of-the-envelope calculations (which is as much as it is worth doing) suggest that the amount needed could be of the order of €2 trillion or more, equivalent to about 80 percent of Germany’s national income.

Another week, another E.U. bailout agreement

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By Mark Hillary. The opinions expressed are his own.

Once again German Chancellor Angela Merkel has had to dig deep to ensure that the euro zone can limp along for a little longer without any single nation defaulting.

And this story changes day by day. No sooner has Germany rescued the euro, Greece apologises and says they can’t meet the deficit targets – no more savings can possibly be achieved through austerity.

Ben Bernanke could teach the EU a thing or two

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By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

Markets thrive on certainty. Anything that smacks of uncertainty, fence-sitting or indecision will lead to market turbulence, as investors punish those who don’t tell them how it is.

This is exactly what we are seeing in Europe right now. The markets are losing patience with the EU’s inability to come up with a credible plan to fight the sovereign debt crisis and that is why it is escalating at an alarming rate.

from MacroScope:

Banking on a Portuguese bailout?

portgualprotest.jpgReuters polls of economists over the last few weeks have come up with some pretty firm conclusions about both Ireland and Portugal needing a bailout from the European Union.

Portuguese 10-year government bond yields have hovered stubbornly above 7 percent since the Irish bailout announcement, hitting a euro-lifetime high and giving ammunition to those who say Lisbon will be forced into a bailout.

from Global News Journal:

Croatia must read European Union signals carefully

The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their "final" stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.

But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission's annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite  differently.

Regulatory gaps let banks off the bonus hook

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– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By Peter Thal Larsen

Investment banks have reined in their worst pay excesses. But inconsistent enforcement of bonus rules in the United States and Europe means some are still getting away with bad behaviour. If banks and regulators can’t agree common standards, they risk another political backlash.

German elections bring forward a possible stalemate situation for EMU

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-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

Next month’s UK general election is not the only one of significance in Europe. There is the possibility that the German regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 9 could result in the end of the CDU/FDP government’s majority in the upper house of parliament.

from Global News Journal:

If Greece’s debt dam breaks, who gets wet?

The 16 countries that share the euro single currency have agreed they will help Greece out if it needs. So far so good. But only now is the nitty-gritty of how member states will go about paying for their contributions being hammered out. And suddenly things are getting a little complicated.

Italy announced on Tuesday it would have to issue government bonds -- known as BTPs --  to raise funds for its part in any Greek assistance. 

What’s next in EMU after Greece deal?

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Jane Foley-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The European Union has finally agreed that an Economic and Monetary Union member country in serious fiscal difficulties will be able to receive bi-lateral assistance from its Eurozone partners as well as draw support from the International Monetary Fund.

from Global News Journal:

Can a European diplomatic service really work?

As experiments in political unity go, Europe's External Action Service takes some beating.

The budding diplomatic corps of the European Union, with a name that sounds like an off-shoot of Britain's SAS, is supposed to represent the unified interests of the EU's 27 member states to the rest of the world.

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