(…) The construction is patently flawed. A fully fledged currency requires both a central bank and a Treasury. The Treasury need not be used to tax citizens on an everyday basis but it needs to be available in times of crisis. When the financial system is in danger of collapsing, the central bank can provide liquidity, but only a Treasury can deal with problems of solvency. This is a well-known fact that should have been clear to everyone involved in the creation of the euro.

(…) The EU is now largely frozen in its present shape.

The same applies to the euro. The crash of 2008 revealed the flaw in its construction when members had to rescue their banking systems independently. The Greek debt crisis brought matters to a climax. If member countries cannot take the next steps forward, the euro may fall apart.

The European authorities accepted a plan that would reduce the (excess) deficit gradually with a first instalment of 4 per cent, but markets were not reassured. The risk premium on Greek government bonds continues to hover around 3 per cent, depriving Greece of much of the benefit of euro membership. If this continues, there is a real danger that Greece may not be able to extricate itself from its predicament whatever it does. (…)

(…)The most effective solution would be to issue jointly and severally guaranteed eurobonds to refinance, say, 75 per cent of the maturing debt as long as Greece meets its targets, leaving Athens to finance the rest of its needs as best it can.

(…) But this is politically impossible at present because Germany is adamantly opposed to serving as the deep pocket for its profligate partners. (…)

(…) So makeshift assistance should be enough for Greece, but that leaves Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. Together they constitute too large a portion of euroland to be helped in this way. The survival of Greece would still leave the future of the euro in question. Even if it handles the current crisis, what about the next one? It is clear what is needed: more intrusive monitoring and institutional arrangements for conditional assistance. A well-organised eurobond market would be desirable. The question is whether the political will for these steps can be generated.

Full FT op-ed


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