European Council: Euro, curse of the 17 Sisyphus
24 maart 2011
European Council summits organised since the onset of the Greek crisis have not been sufficient to prevent Europe from sinking into recession and political crisis — a fact that will remain unchanged by the 24/25 March meeting of member state leaders, writes La Tribune. Europe is faced with a straight choice: reduce the burden on over-indebted countries or organise their exit from the Eurozone.
Sisyphus is not alone. The 17 Eurozone heads of state have weighed in to help him roll his boulder up the hill only to watch it roll back down again. Perhaps that is why their meetings are referred to as European “summits”? In the meantime, the citizens of Europe can only look in despair on this absurd spectacle of endless labour, devoid of any goal other than its own relentless repetition.
A full 18 months after the outbreak of the Greek crisis, the “peripheral” countries of the Eurozone – that is to say those states culturally and geographically distant from Germany – are sinking into recession and political crisis. In view of their weakness, they are condemned to face a triple punishment: a brutal course of austerity, the appreciation of the euro which is already overvalued with regard to their competitiveness, and the mistrust of financial markets which force them to accept excessive interest rates.
And at the end of the road, there will be no salvation. The hundreds of billions of euros from the stability fund will soon dwindle to nothing, and the provision of further finance will weaken the ultimate guarantors of the system, Germany and the European Central bank, who will inevitably be swept away in their turn.
The cause of the crisis is the eternal problem of monetary unions: the problem of the free lunch. For ten years, the guests of the euro have helped themselves without counting the cost, sinking into a fathomless debt made possible by foolish investors and a guarantee from Berlin. At last, the time has come to pay the bill – a difficult moment for some of the diners who have been less than frank about their finances and are now appearing hungrier than ever. Amid the general embarrassment over what to do, we should realise that excessive punishment of this intemperate few could well prove to be fatal, and the wealthier guests will run the risk of never getting their money back.
As a result we are faced with only two solutions to the euro crisis: either we reduce the burden on over-indebted member states, which means making the investors pay, or we organise their exit from the Eurozone. But hark, dear readers! Can you not hear the groans of the custodians of finance? Make way, make way! Here come the cursed 17 with their boulder on the path to yet another European summit.
Translated from the French by Mark McGovern