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The high price of saving the euro

The Local · 16 Dec 2011, 15:48

Published: 16 Dec 2011 15:48 GMT+01:00

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So was that the night the euro was saved? Or will those ten hours on last week go down in history as the moment the European Union began to disintegrate? The leaders of the 27 EU nations certainly couldn’t have made their crisis summit any more dramatic.

Even before it began on the evening of December 8, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron – who was to play a key role in the coming hours – sat down together. What followed were hard, sometimes extremely hard, discussions that culminated in an announcement by the French leader shortly after five in the morning.

The coming days will decide which of the summit’s two results will have greater ramifications for Europe: The news that the eurozone countries have agreed to stricter financial policies to ensure the future of the single currency? Or that not all 27 EU members will take part in the effort?

The German position was clear from the start: Merkel wanted to change the European Union’s treaties with the backing of the entire bloc – including the 10 countries outside the eurozone. But she also left no doubt that she would broker a deal with just the euro nations if necessary. The agreement among the 17 was more important to her than the unity of the 27.

She had the French president firmly on her side. Now 23 EU member states are expected to commit themselves to introducing constitutional debt ceilings and accepting automatic sanctions if they break deficit limits.

For Merkel, these were two non-negotiable preconditions to steering a way out of the eurozone debt crisis. The new contract is now meant to be drawn up and ready by March.

But there is a high political price for the agreement. Britain and Hungary announced they will sign no such contract. The governments of Sweden and the Czech Republic, meanwhile, have said that they need to get a mandate from their parliaments.

No wonder, then, that the buck-passing already began during the long night of negotiations in Brussels.

Who is to blame for the split? Is it Cameron, who insisted that special rules must apply to Britain’s financial sector – or is it Merkel, who put the subject of a treaty change on the table in the first place? At any rate, it’s Cameron who came off worst, since he is now isolated in Europe, without having gained anything for his country’s interests.

Knowing Merkel, an adept player of power games, she will have planned for such an eventuality. She and Sarkozy had a good argument on their side: as the French president said, we cannot agree stricter rules for the eurozone and then allow Britain room to deregulate its financial sector.

But this success has not come cheap. The impression that 22 states stand firmly at Germany’s side is false. Most other heads of state are following Merkel with little enthusiasm – not out of conviction, but because they know that no solution to the debt crisis is possible without Germany. Even those that support the German vision of more budget discipline are unsure whether this is the right time or the right path to take.

Story continues below…

The eurozone states will now agree a new contract that will exist alongside current EU law. It is a route with many potential pitfalls. Some lawyers even doubt whether such a parallel treaty is even legal, because, after all, the economic and currency union is already part of European law.

And is the risk even worth it? Are a debt limit and automatic sanctions worth breaking up the EU? As unappetizing as the answer is, at the end of the day, it will be the markets that decide. If they are convinced, then Merkel will go down in history as the saviour of the euro. If the destructive speculation continues, the German chancellor will be remembered as the one who divided Europe.

This editorial was published with the kind permission of ZEIT ONLINE, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:15 December 16, 2011 by storymann
The Euro, I do not see the end of the Euro or the return of the D-Mark. I do see a different Union which over the years will become closer to a real fiscal union.

The Euro zone growth will lessen in the next years before rising again.

The real litmus test will be if Germany's neighbors will accept the country as the leader of the zone.The united Franco German political front is only political not genuine partnership, France will in the end have to come to terms with the realization that they are not going to run the zone, and they are not ready at this point to form a true partnership with the Germans. I do think that most of the members are committed to a United Europe and in time with cooperation and trust this will happen. It is the only sensible course in a Globalized world.

England,placing itself outside the zone,and if they choose to remain there are going to face severe Economic problems over the next years.
16:18 December 16, 2011 by coffejohn
From a UK perspective it is difficult to see how this is going to play out. Given the vindictive attitude shown by France I suspect it will not be a happy outcome.

I have always thought that France would put its own interests before the rest of the EZone but did not expect that it would throw a tantrum when the UK failed to sacrifice the City to French bombast.

It is especially ironic after being told by Sarkozy to mind our own business. We have taken him at his word and minded it !

At some stage in this saga Merkel must choose between the EZone and France, she cannot balance the interests of both at the same time.
16:38 December 16, 2011 by Europaia
coffejohn, Sarkozy put the euro first. It was Cameron who put self-interest first, and not even the self-interest of his country, but of his own pure self-interest to keep the rabid dogs of the so-called "eurosceptics" (i.e. lunatics) off his back. The UK wasn't being asked to "sacrifice" the City, this summit had nothing to do with the City. That was just some garbage Cameron came up with to justify his veto, the only purpose of which, as I said, was to get the frenzied europhobe pack off his back.

At some stage in this much broader saga of the UK's relations with the EU, the UK is going to have to decide whether it wants to be in the EU or out. It can't try and find a balance between not wanting anything to do with the EU but just wanting to be part of a single market. It is either a full member of the EU and accepts that or it just buggers off. It's quite hypocritical for the British now to try and claim that they are the good member and constructive member of the EU when all they do is throw venom at it. The UK didn't mind it's own business, it unilaterally destroyed the possibility of a Treaty which would have been far stronger than a fiscal pact. In other words, it poked its nose in and destroyed the possibility for eurozone members to have a Treaty. The Treaty wouldn't have bound non-eurozone members but it would enable them to use the EU institutions, which Cameron has claimed he will block, as though he cares about the EU institutions so much.

storymann is right, and that's the actual story of what is taking place at the moment.
17:18 December 16, 2011 by derExDeutsche
@ Europaia said:

' so-called "eurosceptics" (i.e. lunatics). '

Yes, that's right, keep telling yourself that the ones who forecast and warned of this Crisis years in advance are the 'lunatics'.

Those, who are imposing on foreign democracies, those who will no doubt be angering its fellow members citizenry, all for personal financial gain and influence, yes. those are the 'Adults' aren't they?
18:01 December 16, 2011 by gtaglia
I can't see any justification for spending more of the taxpayers' money to bail out either the euro, or the EU. With the exception of the original trade and customs agreements, the EU has no practical value; it has become a tyranny of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, dictating law to the member states. The euro, administered by the politicians and bankers of the ECB, benefits no one but the politicians, who buy political support with borrowed money and the bankers, to whom the present system guarantees a profit for loaning money to governments, who are incapable of paying it back. The politicians maintain and increase their power, the bankers get rich and everyone else pays for it. Why?
18:47 December 16, 2011 by carlm
The Euro isn't the problem, it's the over spending and under performing economies of Europe and the implied or expressed belief that debts are the responsibility of the collective European Union. Any agreements that fail to address collective debt responsibilities is bound to fail.

Using a favorite term of the kommie, collectivism is UNSUSTAINABLE.
21:33 December 16, 2011 by Mike Jennings

as a Brit, it seems a bit odd to me that the private American companies that gave triple A ratings to sub-prime junk bonds about five years ago, and then claimed the ratings were 'only opinions' when it all went horribly wrong, are now judge and jury as regards European national economies!

As regards the Euro treaty, France has just pushed Britain away from a lifeboat that was already sinking,

Cheers, Mike J
21:44 December 16, 2011 by CensorThis
The euro is just now starting its death spiral. They have been keeping it a float with all these lies about a solution every week and pumping enough bailout funds into it so that they can get their money out before it collapses. It will collapse, but not until everybody in the know has their funds somewhere else. I suspect January will be an interesting month.

Euro propaganda fatigue set in a month ago. Even the stock brokers who have to trade everyday for a living are starting to wakeup to this.
22:22 December 16, 2011 by reallybigdog
The City of London will not join the Euro at the bequest of its banks period.

The City of London is the only place in the world where criminal bankers can resell their securities without collateral or INFINITE HYPOTHICATION and its this lack of any regulatory control that supports all the crippling ponzi schemes, securities firms etc WORLD wide and its all coming home to roost across Europe and the world. London is the financial epicenter of the world bankers and its the hive of all the banking and economic corruption we have today folks.

This isn't about some great stand that London must make against Europe or any other heroic daydream most posters stake their humble lives on its its just peeling the layers off a rotten onion of what England really is.
22:57 December 16, 2011 by quiller
The reality is that the politicians and the bureaucrats are living in a political and financial bubble. They are ensconsced in an estate behind huge high walls. They are being paid massive salaries, perks and pensions. They are flown here and there by private jet or first class. They are ferried from airport to office by limousine. They eat from the finest of menus and sleep in secure and centrally heated accomodation. Flags fly and bands play when they arrive and depart. The minions tell them what they want to hear - all speaking from the same menu. Outside these walls, Europe is divided but the infection is spreading. First it was Ireland - remedy austerity, more austerity, more austerity. Result : domestic economy going into a spin, down, down, down. Then it was Greece, then it was Portugal, then it was Spain, then it was Italy. Same medicine and the same result. Industrial employment down, down, down, Retail sales down, down, down. More unemployment. When the infection hits France and Germany and the people and politicians there wonder - how did this happen?
05:14 December 17, 2011 by luckylongshot
Using an analogy the fractional reserve banking system is a parasite

that lives off the blood (money) of the body ( Global economy). Life

has gone on until the parasite has got too big and too greedy (the

present). Then the weakest parts of the body started to die (Greece

etc.). What needs to happen is either the parasite needs to shrink

back to a size where it does not cause illness or the parasite needs

to be destroyed. What saving the Euro involves is making the parasite even

bigger. This solution will only lead to more illness. What would totally solve the problem is to get rid of the parasite and return to a publicly owned money

system where money is based on hard assets and has no interest

attached. I have seen reports that if this was done the savings would

be enough to effectively double the incomes of everyone in the world

apart from the private banking elite.
05:50 December 17, 2011 by reallybigdog
The embellishments in this short tale may make it seem rather humerus, but in truth, these people are deadly and that is how they are operate. Our story begins with former Goldman Sachs CEO, former Senator, former Governor, the CEO of MF Global Jon Corzine. Jon Corzine being a rather simple fellow and not used to running an investment firm like MF Global, (disregard that he used to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs), was speculating with MF Globals money. Low and behold, after only running MF Global for about a year and a half, poor Jon Corzine had accumulated over $1 Billion in losses. Realizing that he had made this big boo boo and was not going to be able to make good on loans that MF Global had outstanding, poor Jon Corzine called up Jamie Dimon, the powerful leader of the five families, er, I mean the CEO of JP Morgan Chase. Jon Corzine carefully explained to Jamie Dimon that although he was very very sorry, he would not be able to pay back the paltry billion or so dollars that MF Global owed JP Morgan Chase. Much to Jon Corzine¦#39;s complete shock, Jamie Dimon then informed him, ¦quot;You will raid the deposits that are in the accounts of your customers and pay me back.¦quot; He then said in a very deadly voice, a voice that stung Jon Corzine to the very bone, (can¦#39;t say soul, he probably doesn¦#39;t have one), ¦quot;If you do not do as I say, you will swim with the fishes¦quot; and then Jamie Dimon hung up. Jon Corzine, a visibly shaken man, then authorized the theft of over $1 Billion dollars from MF Globals customer accounts and the money transferred to the Godfather, er I mean, Jamie Dimon the most powerful banker in the world at JP Morgan. The foxes are really in charge of the hen house.

Although this is now in the courts kinda makes you wonder how safe your money really is when MF Global took money directly from its clients segregated accounts leaving its clients empty handed. And yes its a true story!
09:14 December 17, 2011 by raandy
Mike Jennings as a Britt you had better keep a stiff upper lip in the coming months, the Euro and the EU will survive better than you.
12:16 December 17, 2011 by Mike Jennings
Hello Raandy,

have you checked what the rating agencies have said about the financies of Euro zone countries like Italy this morning?

Seriously though, both main political parties in Britain, especially the Tories under Cameron, have major funding from the city, so they're not likely to upset their paymasters when it comes to fiscal policy. Cameron has just called for a return to Christian morality which is a bit ironic from someone whose government has been stealing from the poor to give to the rich for the last eighteen months.

Chees, Mike J.
15:43 December 17, 2011 by christopheuk25
More demented rantings from the little malignant french nonentity.His country is sinking fast the french banks are in very serious trouble,france is so overexposed to Euoropean countries debt it's staggering and the little muppet knows it ,hence the false bravado regards the UK the whole financial sector around the World knows france is deep in doo doo.The UK should have let them sink to Germany in the past and not have saved their country to give it back to the backstabbers,then again that's the french for you.
18:12 December 17, 2011 by raandy
Mike , yes I know , if England had adopted the Euro it's finances are close to Ireland's. Italy Spain, Portugal and Greece all have negative balance sheets, but a fiscal union with some teeth over time will help these countries to lower their Debt to GDP

and what has irritated most outside the EU is that England was suppose to contain Germany by not letting her become the dominant voice of the EU now England wants to step outside the bubble, what about all the financial transactions from the USA,(NYC) to London first and then to other banks of Europe, now that they have opted out what will happen there?

A cut and paste from todays NY times :

Agreed about the rich getting richer at the expense of low and low middle incomers.

There is looming recognition at 10 Downing Street that if the euro falls, Britain will sink along with everyone else. But if Europe manages to pull itself together by forging closer unity among the 17 countries that use the euro, then Britain faces being ever more marginalized in decisions on the Continent.

There is looming recognition at 10 Downing Street that if the euro falls, Britain will sink along with everyone else. But if Europe manages to pull itself together by forging closer unity among the 17 countries that use the euro, then Britain faces being ever more marginalized in decisions on the Continent.
19:53 December 17, 2011 by leuteleute
christopheuk25, Where is THE BIG THREE NOW?

23:45 December 17, 2011 by shahislam
There should not be any national secret what so ever under the humanitarian power of UN's 'united one peaceful world'. Honesty driven guys like those behind the truth based Wikileaks etc. should be set free for discouraging Semetic-type political identity bearing but private assassinators that confuse the global public and make them subject to terrorism.

************* If lady-like complaining heads are no longer in leadership, Bangladesh do not need IMF money anymore to get the nation moving forward to unlimited prosperity.

Whatever budgets, plans etc. we may hope for, make and follow austerity will be still unavoidable until "One million dollar annual income cap per business guy" -type 'new UN rules on Tax' is applies to each and every too rich global Citizen including a king in a palace in any place of this earth.

( I am a victim of an Elusive but fake Crocodile in Canada) and I wrote the following facts of suppressed truth to publish globally:

PM: Mr. Steven Harper is absolutely right but realizing his hopeful thoughts will be only difficult because of Canadian energy-field's actual owners and the 'economy manipulating, greedy, gas-station-business-controlling-groups' behind an elusive but fake Crocodile.

The Cosmic Creator arranged such a 'universal, non-decipherable solar injection based system' that shortage of fuel for energy will never really happen on this planet: Earth even in trillions of years. Alternatives will always be there and "Nature of the Creator" can handle countless volcanic type pollutions 'forever in human perception'.

Therefore, unlimited Canadian production, usage, export etc. are wise and 'emission' is not a issue when populace is relocated at sefer distance. Our Canadian societies need works; so, removing and relocating cities, for the sake of earning foreign money for Canadian Public, will be a lot of healthy works.

It, by unprecedented and to be implemented new local and global: 'UN municipal laws', will be considered a crime to privately claim ownerships of vast mineral-rich lands by neither "the descendants of dumb, lazy: 'Natives' " nor "the greedy, opportunity seeker: foreign occupiers with cleverness or guns".

The Natural resources underneath the Earth, Oceans, Mountains, Deserts etc. are actually property of Mankind and usable only for global public's benefits and unlike history, cannot belong anymore to greed-blind groups of shrewd guys with unscrupulous ideas and minds.

08:37 December 18, 2011 by Aasvogel
Trying to save the Euro is akin to defibrillating a corpse.
15:21 December 18, 2011 by leuteleute
What happen to the friendship of France and Britain maybe Germany will have a last laugh. How about their long time plan to crash Germany and now the two are kicking each other's ass.
15:30 December 18, 2011 by Mike Jennings
Hello Leutleute,

up until the early nineties, Britain was supporting Western Germany as a first line against the Eastern bloc, so Britain would hardly be trying to do Germany down. Since then, Germany has been about the most powerful economic force in Europe and was a model nation in it's international dealings, so Britain had no desire to destabilise Germany.

As regards France, as DeGaulle said; 'France has no friends, only interests', as shown by her blocking Britain's EEC application in the early sixties by one veto. Plus ca change..

Cheers, Mike J.
16:19 December 18, 2011 by mili17
So many propagandas,campaigns putting the Germans down und und und ... that Germany is the villain, the main cause of their financial destruction (living beyond their means ) What now??? They want the Germans to foot the bills because they cannot support themselves anymore.
17:32 December 19, 2011 by Steve Potts
It is in everyone's interest that the Euro mess is sorted out. No-one will benefit from the collapse of the Euro. The Greeks and Italians will do more than protest if their austerity budgets are too severe and stifle any prospects of growth. People don't mind hardship if they can see light at the end of the tunnel. The only way forward is to allow some countries to make a phased orderly exits from the Euro zone use their own devalued currencies and be allowed to set their own interest rates.
16:02 December 20, 2011 by hireme.ch
This all mess is just due to the fact that Germans can`t admit failing of a structure that was actually built by their own initiative.

Historically it is not the first time and just a wild guess - this won`t be the last one! :)
20:32 December 21, 2011 by scotland
I am not into "name calling" or the "blame game" - what people have to understand is that the UK does not use the Euro. The situation the Euro finds itself in was created by those who use it.

Had the boot been on the other foot would the "Euro Union" have come to the aid of the UK?

I sincerely hope that there is a solution - but at what price
02:34 December 31, 2011 by Edward Braunfels
Ja, not to worry, the printing presses will save the communitarian West.

Happy New Year
18:31 December 31, 2011 by 9900lawre
Merkel: 'Join the dark side David, It is your destiny!'

Cameron: 'I will never join EU, I would rather die!'

Merkel: 'Then Die you must!'

We all know how it ended and before long the dark side fell and all was rosy with life carrying on as normal all across the gallexy.

The world doesn't stop because one currency leader becomes a bully by fear.

There is a financial world outside of Europe and the Euro you know!
14:50 January 7, 2012 by shahislam
If the foolish heads of the 3rd world only could understand how smart and non-violently intelligent is Mr. Barack Obama -who is doing a geatest of all time US mission for US and Global prosperity at the expense of his personal time. He could just write books and make approximately 'Ten times more money' than what he is earning as President of USA. He and some wise of the present are just doing a favor to the Global Public for no personal or monetary gains.

It's a different kind of War, very honestly handled by a couple of smartest politicians on present Earth. Just support honesty and the truth.

Now, oil price may get cheaper to benefit hard-working folks not Billionaires.

Please believe in facts and you have nothing to lose by doing it!

Funny! Yes, funny are the most of the human interactions, as long as no human gets killed by another human or a groups of humans.

The too old styled mankind killing politics in the name of God by the advisers of any of the parties of Semitic Origins such as Iranians, Saudi-Arabians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Afghans etc. will never going to go un-noticed and un-addressed by the New Generation of Collective Global public.

It's time for intelligent, New Kind of US and Global politics without weapons of Wars.

Playing non-violent funny games is Okay as developments for betterment of the mankind -all over the World, is to continue simultaneously.

The changing process will be slow but someone(s) have to start it to be continued for decades and only a few wise heads like Mr. Obama, now understand how the violent reality can become peaceful and of course, by a slowly developing process of digitally identifying and confining the bad guys -a very small percentage of the Global populace including 'a beggar on the global street or a king inside a palace'.

For this reason, still there will be no peace in the lands of today's Egypt, Libya, Palestine, Israel, India, Bangladesh etc.. The non-violent wars of protests will continue from inside e.g. For Saudi-Arabia, its own Public and not Outsider: Israeli Public.

The old style media propaganda won't work anymore as 'the electronic social networks with daily true facts' are becoming replacements. Even attempts to start a "Third World War -will become a matter of idiots' conspiracy" in the eyes of collective 'evolved Global Public'.

Each of us -the wise Westerners, despite our financial hardship, have to get used to enjoying life without luxury for a while and try to have fun in the apparently endless game of living *Life -A truly Cosmic gift of the forever mysterious, cruel (in the human sense of understanding) and *Loving Creator.

18:04 January 8, 2012 by JimofVa
I'm sorry (like you don't know), but Obama is a foolish academic who makes Jimmy Carter look like a great president. Nice recovery plan there, let's see what did you call him, oh yeah wise head? You must man this in a relative manner.

He's a slimy, self-serving Chicago politician. He appointed Van Johnson (just research this guy on your own. It seems to me folks in political office should have some allegiance to the country they serve and to its values). He also appointed Eric Holder, poor Eric, under racist attack, it's not like he's refused to prosecute racist terrorist who prevented decent Americans from voting, oh wait, yes he did.

There's too much more for this venue. However I must say, in comparison to some of the leadership of the E.U., he is a genius. You are correct if you meant what you said relatively.

Peace to All,

17:33 January 9, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
@Reallybigdog -

I enjoyed the humor or your letter. (It was funny indeed! write more often!)

Do you have any credible references to the call between Corzine and Dimon to raid accounts or is it speculation? I want to telephone some friends in UK working for JPM and give him some sh*t. The guy is always telling me how proud he is working for them. I guess if that what gives one self worth...

@Shahislam -

Uhhh... the world has run out of safe places to live so as not to be polluted. E.g. Japan's radiation and China's mercury from coal plants blows over the USA. Chernobyl blew over Europe. BP's well is one more nail in the coffin of the Gulf of Mexico (and if you fly over the Gulf you will learn that BP's well is really just a fraction of the pollution in the Gulf. Anyhow, enough on this dismal subject.)
10:48 January 20, 2012 by christopheuk25
Belive it or not but the Euro is doomed,probably this year,the question is will this flawed ideological concept bankrupt Germany.

Hundred of billions, maybe into the trillion area has been squandered on this political fantasy,now the Euro is shown for what it is.God help you, for your useless corrupt self serving politicians and despicable Eurocrats won't.You the European people blinded by the promise of easy money and unearned prosperity gave these b@@@ards free reign to destroy your security.

Cast your eyes around Europe just now ,what do you see, anarchy ,riots serious poverty,unemployment and the most serious of all, the destruction of your freedom and democracy with Eurocrats placed into Goverments without the vote of the electorate.
19:19 January 20, 2012 by ChuChu
Hi "reallybigdog" Enjoy yr writing...u seem to be one of the few that understand what's happening and can write about it

without sounding like a "know it all" WRITE SOME MORE!
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