No country is economically more dependent on the survival of the euro than Germany: the export powerhouse thrived because Eurozone countries could borrow unlimited amounts of euros to buy German goods. But now that the gravy train has stopped in front of a mountain of unmanageable sovereign debt, Germany finds itself at war—with itself.
Participants in the G-20 meeting in Cannes thought it would be a relaxed affair of photo ops, handshakes, and fancy dinners, interrupted by rubber stamping the Grand Plan of bailing out Greece, bondholders, and European banks. But then Giorgios Papandreou, prime minister of Greece, fired his bazooka. And the Greek extortion racket was back on.
Real estate in Cyprus has been popular with foreigners—they own 100,000 homes in a country with 803,000 people. Turns out, it’s Cyprus’ national sport sponsored by dumb money. Now the underlying title-deed scandal is unraveling the finances not only of expat owners, but also of the banks and the government … who are hushing it up.
The German parliament has a historic opportunity to say no to the bankers: it gets to vote on expanding the European bailout fund to €1 trillion, though it had just been expanded to €440 billion. Since no one has any money, it will be in form of leverage, the very mechanism that has wreaked so much havoc already.
Berlusconi, waiting for money.
When a bank is allowed to collapse, the lies behind its financial statements come out of the woodwork—and Dexia, the bailed-out French-Belgian mega-bank that re-collapsed in early October, is no exception: a report surfaced with the damning results of an earlier investigation by French regulators. And then? Nothing.
Germany and France kissed and made up before the G-20 powwow in Paris last weekend. A contrived show of unity to boost the markets. And it worked. But already, Germany is sniping at France again. Over money. Because German taxpayers might have to subsidize a French company. Via Greece.
Fighting over taxpayer money.
The Eurozone debt crisis gets worse. Bankers interfere. And the truth comes out:
“The dreams to see the crisis ended by Monday couldn’t be realized,” says the German government. Easy solutions have evaporated.
“Tax fraud is a national plague,” said Greece’s finance minister after he found that Greeks owed $50 billion in back taxes. But it’s complicated. And not much will happen to collect them though Greece might go bankrupt in weeks. Meanwhile, civil servants paralyze the country with strikes because salaries and bonuses are on the chopping block—the most curious bonuses….
“We don’t have any doubt about the solidity of French banks,” said the French government—a week after the collapse of Dexia. All eyes are now on Société Générale and BNP Paribas. BNP is the world’s largest bank with assets of $2.8 trillion, dwarfing France’s $2.1 trillion economy. And they’re desperately trying to sell assets to stay afloat.
During his congressional testimony, Geithner fretted that the crisis in Europe could undermine confidence. Alas, bank stress tests were supposed to inspire confidence—yet one of the “safest” banks just collapsed. If inspiring confidence isn’t based on facts and transparency, it’s a con game.