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Jun 15, 2012
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Euro ganging up on Germany is unlikely to succeed

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By Pierre Briancon

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

Financial desperation combined with diplomatic inexperience could end up costing the euro zone dearly. France, Italy and Spain seem to think that presenting Germany with the same demands, over and over again, will soften Angela Merkel to the point that she will accept reforms like euro bonds, a banking union or a direct recapitalisation of the region’s banks by the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone’s bailout fund. But the more the gang of three insists, the more Germany is digging in its heels. On some of the issues it can even rely on the support of the European Central Bank. Ganging up on Germany is not only inefficient: it could backfire if it makes it impossible for euro leaders to come up with some common vision at their summit at the end of the month.

Jun 12, 2012
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Spain, euro zone could still clash over banks

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By Pierre Briancon and Fiona Maharg-Bravo

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

To be successful, Spain’s bank bailout should be a takeover. Euro zone governments have so far been vague about the exact “conditionality” they will attach to recapitalising the country’s lenders. Nonetheless, that vagueness is indicative of the direction they’re heading. There’s the classic restructuring of the banking sector, which will be supervised by the European Commission’s competition authorities. Then there is what the euro zone governments called “horizontal structural reforms” which could signal the end of Spain’s politicised banking system. Madrid may resist on sovereignty grounds. But there’s little it can do.

Jun 11, 2012
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Euro bank rescue doesn’t have to shame Spain

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By Pierre Briancon

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

The case for the euro zone to step in and help recapitalise Spanish banks should have been a no-brainer. Spain is in a bind of its own making, but the challenge of turning its economy around has been magnified by the crisis. As for the euro zone, it has the instruments and the money to help Madrid recapitalise the country’s banks, leaving the government to tend to its own business.

Jun 7, 2012
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ECB stuck in morass of euro zone inaction

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By Pierre Briancon

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

The European Central Bank is waiting. It is waiting for further deterioration in the stagnant euro zone economy – with its 10 percent unemployment rate – before it lowers its key interest rate. It is waiting for euro zone governments to do something substantial about Greece and Spain. And it is waiting for a long-term plan for monetary and banking union before it offers the short-term measures needed to keep contagious fear from devastating the region. The ECB has long taken the euro zone governments to task – and rightly so – for their incapacity. Now it looks stuck in the same morass.

Jun 1, 2012
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Review: Nations fail when people can’t hope

By Pierre Briançon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The book begins in Nogales, a city divided by a fence along the border of Arizona and Mexico, and ends 450 pages later in China, with the story of a young entrepreneur arrested in 2004 for having started a large steel plant competing with the state-owned companies. In between “Why Nations Fail” is a highly readable narrative of a breathtaking trip: from the Neolithic Revolution to 16th century England, from Spain’s Philip II to Stalin, from the Mayan city-states to the Portuguese colonisation of the Moluccan archipelago.

May 24, 2012
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Summit silence on Greece is best option for now

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By Pierre Briançon

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

For once euro zone leaders did the right thing, the very thing they have been unable to do throughout the euro crisis: shut up. Their nine-line communiqué to say nothing on the subject was the only sensible option after their informal dinner Wednesday night. The other alternatives would only have made things worse. And whatever the pundits’ or markets’ expectations may be, it’s better for the euro summiteers to keep mum than to pretend having the answer which only the Greeks can provide.

May 16, 2012
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Hollande-Merkel agenda is more Greece than growth

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By Pierre Briançon

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

With growth on the menu and Greece on their mind, François Hollande and Angela Merkel have reasons to dispense with the usual niceties for their first meeting. The French president chose to fly to Berlin to meet the German chancellor on the very day of his inauguration – and not simply because he wants to smooth over some of the rough edges of the electoral campaign. His trip is also an acknowledgment that there is a fire in the euro house: neither France nor Germany can afford to waste any time before trying to put it out.

May 9, 2012
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Let Germany inflate while others deflate

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By Pierre Briançon

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

The Bundesbank keeps raising concerns about a possible surge of inflation in the euro zone. But the fears are premature at best. The European Central Bank hasn’t failed on that front. While the current 2.7 percent inflation rate is above the ECB’s official goal of “below but close to 2 percent”, it expects to be back on target in early 2013. The question is whether sticking to that stubborn 2 percent goal makes sense as recession threatens.

May 7, 2012
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Hollande won’t have much time to learn on the job

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

The French have chosen a socialist president without any experience of executive power and little taste or knowledge of international matters. When one considers where the certified “experienced” leaders have led Europe in the last three years, this shouldn’t be much of a worry. But if newly-elected François Hollande thinks he can plan for a few months of learning on the job, the situation in Greece is a pressing reminder that he should cut the training period short. 

May 4, 2012
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French banks hope to end balance-sheet shrinking

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By Pierre Briançon

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

BNP Paribas and Société Générale are nearing the end of their crash diets. At least, that’s what the French top banking duo hope after a first quarter in which they shrank their balance sheets following last year’s euro zone-induced funding squeeze.

    • About Pierre

      "Pierre Briançon is Reuters Breakingviews' Paris correspondent. He joined Breakingviews.com in 2006, after heading the Dow Jones Newswires Paris Bureau Chief for three years. Previously, he had been: business editor of Libération, then the newspaper's Moscow and Washington correspondent; deputy editor of L’Expansion; and a producer/columnist for French radio and TV. He is also the author of Messier Story (2002), on the fall of Vivendi’s former chief executive, Héritiers du désastre (1992) on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and San Quentin Jazz Band (2008)."
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