Initial Verdict on European Summit: the Can Got Kicked Further Down the Road

“European leaders’ blueprint for a closer fiscal union to save their single currency left the onus on central bankers to address investor concerns that Italy and Spain would succumb to the two-year-old financial crisis.” (link)

In other words, the so-called leaders of the European Union did not lead!

In place of action, they asked the European Central Bank to cover for them.

“Nineteen months since euro leaders forged their first plan to contain the debt turmoil, the fifth comprehensive effort added 200 billion euros ($267 billion) to the war chest and tightened rules to curb future debts. They sped the start of a 500 billion-euro rescue fund to next year and diluted a demand that bondholders shoulder losses in rescues.”

The biggest winner: Nicholas Sarkozy. The “second best” award went to Angela Merkel.

In other words, we still have not resolved the European sovereign debt crisis.

And, what else was occurred?

The major loser award was given to Britain’ David Cameron. Cameron refused to agree to a full change in the treaty for all 27 members of the European Union if there were no special safeguards for the financial services of the United Kingdom…more specifically, protection for the financial industry in London. In taking such a stance, Cameron basically isolated himself from the proceedings of the summit.

The response of Financial Times editorial writer Wolfgang Münchau: “So we have two crises now. A still-unresolved eurozone crises and a crisis of the European Union.” (link)

To Münchau, “The eurozone may, or may not, break up. The EU almost certainly will. The decision by the eurozone countries to go outside the legal framework of the EU and to set up the core of a fiscal union in a multilateral treaty will eventually produce this split.”

In other words, the inability of the officials of Europe to resolve the sovereign debt crisis is leading to additional difficulties that must be dealt with going forward.

The problem with not dealing with problems is that the problems tend to multiply and grow.

And, what about the threat made by Standard & Poor’s? Will Standard & Poor’s downgrade the debts of the eurozone countries?

The initial feeling is one of uncertainty. It may be that Standard & Poor’s will not move right away…but, the European sovereign debt crisis is not over and the downgrade will probably come in the very near future.

But, this raises another question…what about the European banks who hold so much of the sovereign debt of these nations?

Yesterday, the European Banking Authority declared that European banks needed to add 115 billion in euros to their capital base by next June. New stress tests have indicated that the banking system, especially Germany’s, has a much bigger shortfall of capital than earlier thought. Without the capital the EBA is concerned that the banks will be able to handle the continued financial stress in European capital markets.

European officials, once again, fail to get their arms around the situation.

Perhaps one should not be surprised at this.

However, one question still lingers in my mind. So much was made of the role that Angela Merkel was playing in the effort to get a more comprehensive solution to the European problems that concerns were raised about the possibility of German dominance of the European Union. I even saw articles that made the following assertion: “What Germany could not achieve by military might may be obtained through financial strength.”

If this is true then it appears that Europe is still fighting the old battles. As long as Europe continues to operate on the basis of prejudices established years ago it will not move itself into the 21st century. If this is true, the European financial crisis still has a long way to go.

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About John Mason 79 Articles

Professional history: Banking--President and CEO of two publically traded financial institutions; Executive Vice President and CFO of another. Academic--Professor at Penn State University and at the Finance Department, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Government--Special Assistant to Secretary George Romney at Department of Housing and Urban Development; Senior Economist in Federal Reserve System. Entrepreneurial--work in venture capital and other private equity; work with young entrepreneurs in urban environment.

Visit: Mase: Economics and Finance

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