Showing posts with label 17 euro-zone countries have made the direction in which they are heading very clear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 17 euro-zone countries have made the direction in which they are heading very clear. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sooner or later, the euro-zone financial crisis will be over. Greek, Irish, Portuguese and probably Spanish creditors will have neatly trimmed hair, the banks will have had to shore up their inadequate capital, German exporters will continue to cash the profits from the euro their southern partners have obligingly weakened, and the eurocracy will have found other reasons to meet. But Europe will not be the same.

It will be changed in two very important ways. First, the 27-nation European Union will have fractured into separate groups of 17 and 10. Second, the economies of the Gang of 17 will be centrally managed by a Franco-German coalition, while the nations among the 10 "leftovers" will fight a losing battle to effect the policies of the EU of which they are paid-up members. Peaceful coexistence between the 17 and the 10 is no sure thing.

The 17 euro-zone countries have made the direction in which they are heading very clear. The felt need to prevent defaults by its overly indebted members is leading to a more pervasive system of central economic management. The 17 are to have access to Germany's balance sheet, in return for which Germany is quite properly demanding a say in how they manage their economic affairs. Not only their budgets, but all the factors that affect their international competitiveness: methods of wage bargaining; the generosity of their welfare states, including the timing and terms of retirement; regulations concerning access to various occupations; and, most of all, tax rates.

It's not on for Greece to borrow money from the stronger euro-zone countries while operating loss-making, nationalized transport systems; or for euro-countries to index retirement benefits to wage rates rather than retail prices, with Germany the payer of last resort; or for one member to maintain corporate tax rates at half the level of the group average. It has become clear that a one-size-fits-all interest rate must be accompanied by more uniform fiscal and related economic policies. Joy unbounded in Paris as the long-sought French goal of a 17-nation euro-zone "economic government" comes closer to realization, marginalizing EU institutions.

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