Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Defence of PIGS: European Union Financial Tyranny

Readers have asked for a quick verdict on the Merkel-Sarkozy deal.

I have nothing to say. There was no deal. It was a vacuous restatement of clauses that already exist in the Lisbon Treaty, or an attempt to pass off retreads such as the Tobin Tax and harmonization of the corporate tax base as if they were new.

No eurobonds, no fiscal union, no boost to the EFSF rescue fund, no change of policy on the ECB’s mandate. Zilch.

More fiscal austerity for laggards, without even the Marshall Plan we had on July 21. It is all a step backwards into the black hole.

As for appointing EU president Herman van Rompuy head of a eurozone panel, I find it remarkable that anybody should take this seriously (much as I like the poet Van Rompuy, among the best of the lot). There is already a Eurogroup, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker.

The emptiness of the summit – coupled with Sarkozy’s deliciously absurd theatrics – tells us all we need to know. Neither Merkel nor Sarkozy seem capable of rising to the occasion. Europe is drifting towards its existential crisis.

The ECB can hold the line for now by purchasing €20bn of Spanish and Italian bonds each week. But once the ECB nears €150bn or so, the markets will brace for the next crisis.

Italy alone has to raise or roll-over €68bn by the end of September. You can be sure that a great number of investors will take advantage of ECB intervention between now and then to lighten their holdings, and switch the risk to eurozone taxpayers. The ECB may have to buy at least €100bn of Italian bonds alone by late September to cap the 10-year yield at 5pc.

Perhaps the Chinese and Gulf states will keep buying. Perhaps not. (more)