Chancellor Angela Merkel did the right thing. She left Germany. And Germany is in turmoil. The bailout policies she and her government had pushed through and that parliament had passed just after the EU summit ran into discord, accusations, and threats. Everybody was applying pressure. And the Federal Constitutional Court will now have to decide—and it already made its first decision.
Germany and France exist in two different universes, apparently: France, safely ensconced in a Eurozone without bailouts and with nary a debt crisis on the horizon, debates its economic and social model. Germany sees a Eurozone ravaged by a debt crisis with mind-boggling bailout costs and risks that stir up a furor on all sides, and everything is getting questioned, even the euro itself.
Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen set the scene for the long European summer break when she declared that Finland was a dedicated member of the Eurozone, eager to solve the crisis, but “not at any price”; it wouldn’t agree to take on “collective responsibility for debts and risks of other countries” via a banking union. And if push came to shove: “We are prepared for all scenarios, including abandoning the Euro.”
Rather than solving the Eurozone debt crisis once and for all, the EU summit gummed up the bailout process with controversy in the very country that everyone is counting on to save the Eurozone, Germany—but also elsewhere—and nothing has been resolved. And as before, there’s Greece, inexorably tottering towards its more or less graceful exit from the Eurozone as… “The patience of the public has been exhausted.”
Markets were soaring in Asia, Europe, the US, everywhere. Spanish stocks skyrocketed 5.7% and Greek stocks 7.5%. Let the good times roll. The euro jumped to the highest level in two weeks. Yields on Spanish bonds fell off a cliff, with the 10-year benchmark down from over 7% to 6.38%, the lowest since, well, Monday. A miracle had happened. Chancellor Angela Merkel had blinked. Um, a little bit.
It’s astounding how distorted the coverage of Germany in the Eurozone bailout scheme has been—at least in the English-speaking mainstream media. Time after time, we’re confronted with the inanest headlines that place Chancellor Angela Merkel and her fellow politicians on some kind of invisible verge where they will suddenly, and under tremendous international pressure, come to their senses and … blink.
In Cyprus, it’s panic time. €1.8 billion is needed by June 30. That’s just the beginning. Its banks have been eviscerated by Greek government bonds, Greek corporate debt, a real estate bubble that collapsed, and a title-deed scandal that they colluded in. It has a communist president and vast deposits of natural gas. Russia and China hover nearby. And it points out, unwittingly, why no country should ever do what the EU Summit will focus on: transfer even more sovereignty to the EU.
During the two-day EU summit on June 28 and 29, all eyes will be breathlessly riveted on German Chancellor Angela Merkel—with one question on all lips: will she blink? Because nothing less than the future of the Eurozone and the euro is at stake. And by extension, the world economy. Only she can save it. And she’d have only 48 hours!
One thing Greek politicians have taught other European leaders: fear mongering for the purpose of extortion is the way to go. It might not work, and it might be counterproductive, and it might destroy confidence in the economy and give investors goose bumps and blow up markets, and it might cause spooked consumers to hold back on purchases and worried businesses to freeze hiring plans, thus exacerbating the situation, but it’s nevertheless the way to go.
Poor Angela Merkel. The beleaguered German Chancellor just can’t catch a break. She has already committed hundreds of billions of taxpayer euros to bailing out collapsing countries. In return, she wants them to live within their means and restructure their economies so that the bailouts wouldn’t have to continue ad inifinitum. For that, she joins the Axis of Evil. And then the Swiss Minister of Defense speaks up.