Monday, 23 February 2009

EU breaking up?

De Spiegel reports that:
"Germany's Finance Ministry is currently looking into ways to help struggling euro zone member states. Its ultimate aim is to save Europe's common currency from collapse. Will Germany have to bail out other EU states the way it is rescuing its banks and industry?

The Germany finance minister chose a stage far away from the political hustle and bustle of the German capital Berlin to speak about the unspeakable. "We have a few countries in the euro zone who are getting into difficulties with their payments," Peer Steinbrück told a crowd in Düsseldorf on Monday.


From Steinbrück's perspective, the coming decade may well be a gloomy one -- at least for some members of the euro zone, the countries that have adopted Europe's common currency. Ireland, especially, is currently in a "very difficult situation," Steinbrück said, confirming what until then only currency market speculators or independent researchers had dared to say. Then the minister went a whole lot further: "If one euro zone gets into trouble, then collectively we will have to be helpful."

The concession was tantamount to a complete reversal. Until Monday, not a single representative of the euro zone had been willing to discuss the possibility of aid measures for countries in dire financial straits. Instead they have pointed to the Maastricht Treaty, which provides the foundations for the common currency. The treaty prohibits the community of states from providing financial aid to individual euro zone members. Each government is required to keep its own finances in order so that no country becomes dependent on another.

But now Steinmeier is creating the impression that some euro zone members may ultimately require the same kind of bailout already seen in the banking industry and manufacturing. It could come at the cost of billions to taxpayers. "The euro-region treaties don't foresee any help for insolvent countries, but in reality the other states would have to rescue those running into difficulty," Steinbrück said.

For German taxpayers, this would be no small sum. If Germany were to pay into a bailout based on its size relative to other euro zone countries, it would be forced to cover one-fourth of the entire tab. "

The countries within the Euro-zone that are closest to financial collapse are: Greece, Ireland and Italy. Switzerland and the UK are also at risk but they are not in the Euro, or in Switzerland's case the EU.

De Spiegel continues:
"Compared to German government bonds, which are considered the most secure investments in the euro zone, the three countries are being forced to pay investors a significant risk premium. In Greece that premium is 3 percent, 2.5 percent in Ireland and 1.4 percent in Italy.

Only a short time ago, the costs of floating bonds were largely unified across the euro zone. In light of interest rates that are drifting apart, media in some places, particularly in Britain and the United States, have begun speculating about the possible collapse of Europe's common currency. "Once a blessing, now a burden," the New York Times recently wrote in an article detailing the turbulence. "

The EUSSR may be about to experience an economic collapse which would be terrible to experience but it may have the upside of destroying the political unification train. Alternatively the Irish people may be "encouraged" to vote yes in the re-run referendum so as to get EU help. If the latter happens then I see the final move to political unification being hurried along so as to tie us all together for the future.

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