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What the EPP gives the EPP takes - political crisis in Portugal

by Luis de Sousa Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 02:40:15 AM EST


The political theatre
"The theatre play comes to an end." That's how the opposition leader in Portugal announced last weekend that the ousting of the government was imminent. To that end the opposition rejected an agreement with the Council to use the European Stabilization Fund aiding with the state's sovereign debt.

Upon the rejection of the austerity package that underpinned Portugal's access to the Union's aid mechanisms, the Prime Minister resigned, casting a shadow of doubt on the future of this state and of Europe itself. The consequences of this political crisis are as of now largely unpredictable, but certainly huge.

Front-paged by afew


Prologue

To understand this story one has to go back to 2009. The Socialist Party (PS - member of the PES) has the majority of seats at Parliament supporting the Government of José Sécrates since 2005. The credit crisis is hitting some sectors hard, especially Construction, and unemployment is rising fast. But it is an election year and measures to equilibrate the budget with declining tax income and increasing welfare expenses plus a Bank bailout are left aside. In spite of having his name linked to a few scandals, José Sócrates leads the PS to another victory, only this time without a parliamentary majority.

Negotiations unfold for a new government. At his left José Sócrates has the Left Bloc (BE) and the Communist Party (PCP), both members of the GUE; to his right lay the Social Democrats (actually an half liberal, half conservative party member of the EPP) and the Popular Party (CDS, also EPP). An impasse settles but to the astonishment of many, the President eventually calls the PS to form a minority support government on its own. Such option proved viable once in the past, but likely the recipe for disaster considering the national and international economic framework.

Dragging well into 2010, the new Government finally settles a deal with the CDS to approve a budget for that year. Son after the bombshell statistic comes: the budget deficit in 2009 soared to over 9% of GDP; the pressure on Portugal's sovereign debt starts mounting. Still in March of 2010 a package of austerity measures is announced by the government; another would follow in June, and another still in October. Leaving the adjustment to the last minute, the government is left only with short term measures such as VAT hikes and outright wage cuts.

With a new leader elected, Pedro Passos Coelho, the PSD starts to feel the heat of being the largest party in opposition to a minority government that can't exactly fail. During the first months of 2010 things seem to be evolving well between the two major parties, but when in September they start negotiating the 2011 budget the personal relationship between José Sócrates and Pedro Passos Coelho collapses and the doubt is cast on the viability of a budget. The impasse drags, Passos Coelho is between a bad place and a rock, either votes against the budget, launching the country into further economic uncertainty, or lets another package of unpopular austerity measures pass; meanwhile interest rates on 10 years bonds go beyond the unheard level of 6%. In face of ending as the bad guy no matter what, the PSD eventually abstains in the voting, thus approving the 2011 budget.

But the pressure on the Portuguese sovereign debt keeps mounting, the 2010 budget execution is not convincing and the rating agencies exert their power. With Greece already tapping the European Stabilization Fund (ESF) and Ireland negotiating to do the same, Portugal is the last in line before the bond vigilantes go after Spain, a state that's not exactly bailable. The heavy penalties it imposes and a relatively small dimension    also casts doubts on the effectiveness of the ESF itself, which only adds lumber to the fire. The ECB is buying ever larger amounts of Portuguese bonds, but interest rates creep up above 7%, a limit previously referred by the government beyond which it would tap the ESF. Instead, Portugal goes into 2011 still on its own, rolling its debt to ever lower maturity bonds, thus keeping average interest rates below 4%. The result is ever more frequent auctions for ever larger figures. With Ireland already tapping the ESF and interest rates on Spanish, Italian and Belgian bonds creeping up, several decisive auctions take place in January where the ECB intervenes heavily, impeding further escalations. An interesting tactic is adopted: Portugal goes on the market on Wednesdays, with the ECB helping, it becomes a mild success, Spain and Italy then auction their debt on Thursday, which propped by the good results of the previous day also succeed. Someone characterizes Portugal as the little boy with the finger in the dike.

This tactic, coupled to the willingness of the EPP leaders to reinforce and reinvigorate the ESF, finally succeeds, with interest rates easing on every state except Portugal. In spite of an announced better than targeted 2010 budget execution (below  7% of GDP) a sovereign debt of some 90% of GDP of ever decreasing maturity and ever increasing interest rates seems unsustainable; the markets scream: ESF!

And thus March of 2011 arrives. Portugal can no longer hold the dike on its own, negotiations with the EPP for the ESF upgrade are also the negotiations for the Union's aid.

March 2011, a log

2nd

José Sócrates flies to Berlin with the Minister of Finance to negotiate directly with Angela Merkel, in what is seen by some internal sectors as an act of pure subservience to another state. Nothing objective is provided to the press on the contents of this meeting, but at this distance it is not hard to have some plausible idea of what happens. Essentially, the EPP had previously agreed to improve the ESF, but commitments have to exist from everybody; for Portugal in particular the 4.3% of GDP budget deficit target for 2011 has to be accomplished. With oil prices escalating, GDP projections underpinning the budget seem now totally unattainable. More austerity is the answer, but if the new ESF comes to be then it can buy Portuguese debt directly without a formal aid request; in the short term this may not represent immediate interest rates reductions, but mid term it will be better than the high fixed rate agreements struck by Greece and Ireland. It's a whole game of chess, but in all likeliness an agreement of this sort between Jośe Sócrates and Angela Merkel is settled this day.

6th

The PES meets in Greece to present an alternative economic strategy to that being laid out by the EPP, which controls all major European institutions: Parliament, Commission and Council. The PES points to further solidarity between states, to easy the austerity on those states with fewer means, and the creation of an European Treasury, a new institution to single side deal with the markets and their minions, the rating agencies. José Sócrates is absent, clearly breaking ranks with the PES and signalling total synchrony with the EPP.

9th

Elected in late January, Aníbal Cavaco Silva is sworn in for a second term as President. Part of the protocol is a speech to Parliament with all major state figures present. It is one of the harshest speeches ever produced by a President in the modern democratic Portugal, in total opposition to the economic course trailed by the Government. There's also a call on young citizens to make themselves heard, taken as an explicit endorsement to a major youth protest taking place days later. It is the sort of speech to expect from a President that intends to sack the Government, but onwards, Cavaco Silva simply casts himself to silence.

10th

A Censorship Motion is presented at Parliament by the BE. This is a special resolution that, if approved, implies the immediate sacking of the Government, in consequence of which elections must be set by the President. Only the GUE members vote positively, the PS votes against and the EPP members abstain.

11th

José Sócrates is at the Eurogroup meeting that is finishing the new ESF and its rules. In Lisbon, the Minister of Finance makes a storm announcement of a new austerity package to reduce the budget a further 0.8% of GDP, including things such as freezing the lowest pensions. Later dubbed by a prominent PS figure as the "most disastrous political announcement ever taking place in the northern hemisphere", it seeds the confusion on the extent to which Portugal is bounded to the package and its exact content (contradicted in subsequent declarations). But above all it creates a huge malaise in the Portuguese political scene, for this package was supposedly unknown to all other parties and even to the President, contrary to what would be expected from a minority government. Over that, it casts doubts on the 2011 budget execution.

Later that day a joint communication by the Commission and the Council applauds this new austerity package. By then both the GUE and EPP members in Portugal had already declared intentions to vote against it at Parliament.

12th

200 000 people hit the streets in several cities of Portugal crying against the eroding economic setting. Supposedly, it was started by a group of independent youths as a movement to expose the precarious working conditions or even unemployment most of their generation have been cast in the wake of the economic crisis (note: the author is one of these) but it grows to a multi-generation protest. The success of the protest is largely a product of its declared independence from political parties, a serious display of the common citizen's  loathing of politics. Nonetheless, propaganda issued by the youth section of the PSD is prominently used throughout the protests.

15th

Faced with the reluctance of the whole of the opposition to accept the new austerity package, José Sócrates makes a storm appearance on a TV interview. He declares the package is not closed and opened to negotiation, what is bounding is the deficit target. He asks for alternative measures from the opposition if those proposed are not to their licking. Dramatizing, he also makes it clear that with the rejection of the package governing becomes impossible and elections must take place. In perfect synchrony, a rating agency slashes once more the rating of Portugal's debt, precisely during the TV interview. Portuguese sovereign bonds are now just two notches above junk. Interest rates on 5 year bonds pierce over 8%.

17th

The government announces a 800 M€ surplus for the February budget execution. It thus becomes clear the new austerity package was imposed by the EPP as counterpart for access to the soft version of the ESF.

21th

With every attempt of negotiation failing, the government presents the austerity package at Parliament. Pedro Passos Coelho and other figures of the PSD are openly talking of elections. Jean-Claude Junkers declares there's no margin to reject the targets set in the package.

23th

Four different resolutions against the austerity package are presented at Parliament by each party in the opposition; all of them are approved. Immediately after the Prime Minister presents his and his government's resignation to the President.

The Plot

Making sense of these events is close to impossible. In essence, the EPP rejected at the Portuguese parliament what it had imposed at the Council. In their urge to cast aside José Sócrates' government, the Portuguese EPP members refused an agreement to tap the ESF in conditions considerably more favourable than those by which Greece and Ireland accessed to it. Overthrowing the government this way is both prejudicial to these parties and Portugal, no logic can justify it. If the PSD and the CDS wanted to oust José Sócrates, why didn't they approved the censorship motion presented on the 10th? If they thought the actions of the government compromised the regular political functioning of the state, thus making its continuance impossible, why wasn't presented an alternative package that could sustained an agreement to tap the ESF and quell the bond vigilantes?

The alternative interpretation is believing that Passos Coelho and the major EPP leaders, Merkel, Sarkozy, von Rompuy and Barroso conjured to cast aside a PES member at the Council. Even in that case, both the timing and the format are too awkward, with important negative consequences for all. If indeed Passos Coelho broke rank with the EPP, then he casts Portugal to a very week negotiating position at the Council.

The Actors

José Sócrates is pretty much politically dead. With his name linked by the press (though not by the courts) to two corruption scandals and being the face of the worst economic period the state lived since it joined the EU, the road is ending for him. Never able to properly relate with any of the multiple PSD leaders during the time he was Prime Minister, many times showed to lack the negotiating flexibility for the occasion. The autistic way in which the austerity package was agreed and presented begs the question if he didn't actually desired the present crisis.

Pedro Passos Coelho is to a great extent a political nobody. Without any achievements or relevant offices in his political record, and much less in his professional carer, he came to be the PSD leader after the fast burnout of several leaders. Throughout the time he was in opposition he showed great difficulties with political tactics, letting José Sócrates cornering him several times. He largely misunderstood the role the largest opposition party should have in the complex situation he faced, neither partnering with the government nor presenting a credible and prompt alternative. The fact that José Sócrates was simply transposing the EPP economic policy to Portugal was a huge obstacle to a centre-right alternative that he never managed to deal with. In another display of poor political tactic he poses himself to be the prime minister assuming office in the most difficult conditions since the 1974 revolution.

Aníbal Cavaco Silva is, perhaps discretely, another major culprit of the present crisis. His major mistake was accepting a minority government in 2009 in face of an economic crisis with strong structural roots. After actively seeking compromises at Parliament to support the 2011 budget, he promptly changed tone once he got elected to a second term, lighting the fire and passively watching the state burn.

In the past weeks none of these men seemed to have acted with the best interest of Portugal in mind.

Scenes from following Acts

To understand how critical the resignation of José Sócrates and his government is, a few more things about the Portuguese political system must be know. With the resignation, the executive becomes unable to produce any sort of relevant political act. It is termed a Management Government, which is only able to guarantee the minimum functioning of the state; it can't, for instance, perform international agreements or adjust the budget. The Constitution now obliges to a 55 day period before the election of a new Parliament, and a new government isn't immediately sworn in. Hence Portugal can only have a proper government by July the soonest.

The implications in the short term are already huge. The Council meets tomorrow for what was supposed to be the final agreement on the new ESF. Can the ESF be enacted without Portugal's commitment? Will the other members of the Eurozone move forward and leave Portugal behind? In case the new ESF fails to be, what happens to the sovereign debt in Spain, Italy or Belgium?

On another plane, expect the rating agencies to cut Portugal's rating down to junk in the blink of an eye. By mid April the Treasury has to auction 4.5 G€, and another 5 G€ by June; the probability of these auctions succeeding is slim at best. What happens when a bond auction fails while a management government is in office? It can't claim foreign aid or do any sort of negotiation to that end, what then? Is any of the bright minds that produced this crisis reflecting upon this?

Thinking ahead on the election, the probability of the PS winning again is zero, but the PSD won't have a majority either, especially for the ensuing period of management governance will provide plenty of space for Pedro Passos Coelho to be attacked as the culprit of the crisis. Can he get a majority support at Parliament? What if he doesn't?

This whole scenario is shaping as a serious test to Europe and its present governance. Will the Council simply assist to the Portuguese default, or act promptly? Can the €uro survive to a member state default? Can the ESF outright bailout Portugal directly buying its debt bonds at the coming auctions? Can the EPP leaders explain such measures to their electorate? The EPP has some though choices ahead.

Epilogue

No matter how wrongly the individuals here referred have acted, one must remember they were are all legitimately elected. Portuguese folk especially should take a moment to reflect upon the sort of leaders they have chosen lately.

 In ancient Greece the theatre would usually end like this, with a single conclusive sentence, but before I go a few personal thoughts. I'm going to bed tonight with a great deal of concern. First of all because Portugal is becoming a real tough place to live in; I'm one of the precarious workers referred above, now almost 2 years working without a contract. This crisis is a serious step back for a state that had never quite been there. And secondly because at the European scope the consequences can be profound. This comes at very bad moment, right when things seemed to be going somewhere. The outcomes can be so broad reaching and unpredictable that for the first time I fear the present Confederation-like model may not be up to it. March isn't over, may the European leaders have the vision the Portuguese lack.

Display:
"This comes at very bad moment, right when things seemed to be going somewhere."

I assume this refers to a personal prospect. Because in a general sense, things were going nowhere.

by Torres on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 04:53:59 AM EST
The new ESF is somewhere to me, for it gets closer to a proper European Treasury.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 05:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence comments (email):

We wonder whether people will ask the following question after the summit [European Council]: If there is so little political will to furnish the ESM will the necessary capital when it needs it, how credible then is the pledge by European leaders to do "whatever it takes" to save the eurozone?

It looks as though a superfluous and economically doubtful German tax cut takes precedence over the integrity and stability of the eurozone.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 06:02:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True. There were/are, however, very few signs of any positive impact on the portuguese economic situation.
by Torres on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 12:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think there's any chance of that, despite the rhetoric that it's all being done for "growth, jobs, and competitiveness".

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 12:05:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't really understand all the cries about Portugal and Greece.

What would happen if one or two peripheric countries decided to unilaterally stop paying or report payments for their debts?

They wouldn't get more credit? But Argentina has done so in 2001 and seems to be doing OK ten years after a major crisis I can still remember.

The euro would go down relative to the dollar? This would only give room for these countries to expand their economies, and I suspect some other european countries would beneift from that too.

So what lasting consequences may appear? The euro would not disappear, because that would require a political decision which will never happen. A crisis? Could it really be worse for all low wage workers in GReece, Spain or Portugal at the moment? (And France's poll results show that even the biggest countries have some problems there).

So? Couldn't it be a good strategy to indeed let a small country default, so that all the others would benefit from a lower euro?

by Xavier in Paris on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 06:25:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason everybody is crying about peripheral default is that so far everybody has been pretending that core banks are solvent. If (when) there is a peripheral default on sovereign and interbank debts (and the latter is almost certain to follow the former, because domestic banks are usually rather exposed to sovereign debt), a number of French, British and German banksters will end up with egg on their faces.

That will be good, because the current state of affairs - in which they desperately attempt to consolidate their balance sheets before the inevitable defaults - is seriously harmful to the real economy. But obviously the banksters and their tame newsies don't see it that way.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 06:33:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Union's insistence on no bondholder bail-ins until 2013 is truly bizarre unless it's a conscious attempt to confine the pain to the deficit countries.

What a waste of 5 years that will be, even if successful.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 06:35:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Union's insistence on no bondholder bail-ins until 2013 is truly bizarre unless it's a conscious attempt to confine the pain to the deficit countries prevent the core countries' banksters from sharing the pain.

Fixed it for you. Ain't nothing in that policy that prevents the core countries themselves from sharing the pain.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 06:49:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously what is being avoided here is direct bailout costs to surplus country taxpayers, as wel las any disruption of their domestic banking systems with the knock-on effects that has on the "real" economy.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 07:14:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And in exchange they the deflationary effects of having an insolvent banking system that doesn't know when the other shoe is going to drop, and is desperately scrounging up every bit of liquidity it can in preparation for the inevitable margin call.

Not a trade I'd have made. But then, I'm not a Serious Person.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 07:26:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Deflation is not so much of a problem for surplus as for deficit countries.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 08:45:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US was a surplus country in 1937...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 08:55:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The new ESF - to be called European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM) - will be able to buy sovereign debt at the secondary market. That could be used to bring rates down ahead of Portuguese bond auctions, thus avoiding an outright bail-out. Naturally the conservative electorate would never let this pass without a compromise from the beneficiaries of such mechanism; the failed austerity package was the "sacrifice" required from Portugal to benefit from it.

But, even without the new austerity package, it makes sense to act on the secondary market to prevent a formal bail-out request from Portugal, thus avoiding the contagion to Spain, Italy and even Belgium. Actually, it might even make sense for these states to act directly on Portuguese auctions to keep their own rates down.

This is a game of chess like we never had in Europe. Unfortunately, most media cannot see beyond what goes on inside their outdated borders.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Fri Mar 25th, 2011 at 04:32:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, the ESM can't do anything the ECB couldn't do if it were doing its job, and the EPP wants to get paid twice for allowing the European Union's governing institutions to do their jobs.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 26th, 2011 at 05:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He's probably referring to the semblance of agreement at the EU level.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 06:48:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - What the EPP gives the EPP takes - political crisis in Portugal
What happens when a bond auction fails while a management government is in office?

I think this is the central question. We have speculated and laid pieces of the puzzle here, but the answer is (I think) still unknown.

The central thing to remember is that the only reason governments borrow their own currency in auctions are internal rules. A government could just note it as a balance and move on. In the case of EMU the internal rules are owned by the EU structure as opposed to by the state itself.

The management government has to follow the budget and so orders salaries etc to be payed. What then? Will the ECB cut off the portugese banking system from the rest of the banking system of the EMU? Will the managment government instead simply default on debt that can not be rolled over?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 04:55:21 AM EST
Folks, this was written last night in a very constrained period of time, please forgive me the english glitches here and there.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 05:41:33 AM EST
Luis, this isn't a blog for native English speakers only :)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 06:03:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "glitches" are what gives it its colour and authenticity.  Lets not invent a europrose.  

I find the contrast between the Irish and Portuguese political processes fascinating.  As I wrote in In Praise of Politics, the Irish political system has (up until now)worked pretty well to contain violence, mitigate tensions, and effect change at a personnel and party level.  Less well at enabling serious policy change.

The sheer tsunami of banking debt being forced onto Irish taxpayers probably makes the Irish situation more unsustainable in the short term - we are practically being forced into default by our EP "partners" - but the real economy is probably still in a slightly more dynamic state than in Portugal, so recovery is also possible.

The interesting parallel with Portugal is that in both cases the EPP appears to be paying a driving role - this is the first time I can recall that the EU party system actually mattered all that much in determining what coordinated responses are possible, and what are actually happening.  In both cases the EPP is striving to marginalise PES aligned parties - and in Fianna Fail's case to marginalise smaller nationalist parties.

What is more surprising is that there is still no attempt to coordinate Greek/Irish/Portuguese/Spanish responses to the ECB/EPP oligopoly.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 06:09:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"What is more surprising is that there is still no attempt to coordinate Greek/Irish/Portuguese/Spanish responses to the ECB/EPP oligopoly."

It seems that until now every other country tried to marginalise first Greece, then Ireland in order to avoid having the same fate (like in the old "The Four Oxen and the Lion" fable).

On the positive side, the way that the EPP behaved is forging for the first time a true European-wide party which might have long-term implications. Possibly unwarranted by the EPP itself.

"Eurozone leaders have turned a 50bn Greek solvency problem into a 1,000bn existential crisis for the European Union." David Miliband

by Kostis Papadimitriou on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 10:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The PES tried to put together a coordinated position on the crisis, and who missed the meeting? Sócrates and Zapatero.

Luis de Sousa was quite angry in his previous diary: Sócrates and Zapatero leave PES for EPP

We finally seem to have some coordinated effort from the PES to tackle the crisis. The socialist family has gathered in Greece to present an alternative path to the austerity-rules-all course imposed by the conservatives. They lure to have a thorough answer to the new economic governance rules proposed by Merkel and Sarkozy, now being refined to be voted by the Council later this month. Shy to some extent, it nevertheless points to the obvious building blocs needed to both deal with the crisis and reinforce the Union. The creation of an European Treasury, the creation of an European tax, even the reference to the needed structural paradigm change to build an Economy for the XXI century, all of it seems to be considered by the PES leaders.

The meeting is even more important for another reason, by displaying this unity the socialists are sending their citizens a clear message, the blind austerity is not being imposed by the Union, but by the conservatives that at the moment rule the Union. Merkel, Sarkozy, von Rampuy, Barroso, are all members of the EPP; the apathetic servitude to American rating agencies, the blind pursue of a stronger than steel €uro, it's their course, not of Europe itself.

Unfortunately, two socialist leaders missed the meeting: Zapatero and Sócrates. They don't seem to be interested in an alternative to the conservatives' policy. They are now themselves conservatives.

Zapatero has been busy reminding everyone that "Spain is not Ireland" just like "Portugal is not Greece". I'm not sure what ZP expects to gain from that. At the time of the Irish bail-out, I criticised Zapatero for joining forces with the EPP (or farther right in the case of the UK) of the other 4 larger EU member states to "reassure the markets" that bondholders wouldn't suffer losses on currently existing debt:
Zapatero, the last best hope of Social Democracy in Europe [sic], joins forces with the Conservative-Neoliberal governments of Germany, France, Britain and Italy in a futile attempt to protect his own bond spreads, only to find a few weeks/months from now that the other 4 larger economies hang him out to dry...
Sure enough, it took only 5 weeks for the markets to attack Spain...
Who Could Have Predicted?


So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 10:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: Socrates quits, no deal of EFSF, no deal on Irish interest rates, anger over Merkel's decision to reopen the ESM debate - another fine mess.
Portuguese leader quits after parliament rejects austerity measures; but remains in office until Portugal's president accepts his resignation; Portugal is now on the brink of being forced into the EFSF; Xavier Vidal-Folch says not only Portugal is to blame for what he considers a systemic crisis; Portugal fiscal deficit is revised upwards to over 8% by Eurostat; final decisions on EFSF and ESM might not be taken until June; Ireland no longer presses for an interest rate deal, and wants to wait until stress tests are done; Irish politicians are furious with the French over demands for a higher corporate tax rate; Reuters says the summit sends out a signal of indecision and indeterminacy of agreements; Werner Musler argues the agreement on the ESM would mean an open-ended fiscal transfer from Germany to the rest of the EU; Jean-Claude Juncker attacks Angela Merkel; the CDU/CSU, meanwhile, is slumping in the opinion polls as voters are angry over Merkel's permanent U-turns.


So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 06:40:23 AM EST
Ireland is no longer pressing for an interest rate reduction because the penny has dropped that  a 1% interest rate reduction won't solve the problem. The Bank stress test due end March will reveal a re-capitalisation requirement way beyond that envisaged in the IMF/ECB deal and ireland's ability to fund, borrow and repay.  Thus Ireland will then declare the IMF/ECB deal inadequate/inoperable and will default on c. €20 Billion in unguaranteed banking debt - on the grounds that a partial banking default now is better than a wholesale sovereign default later.

The whole Eurozone banking system will go into crisis mode and the Irish payments clearing system may cease to operate for a while until the bondholders decide to do with banks they now own but don't want.

Everyone will jump up and down blaming everybody but themselves (and particularly the Irish) but the bottom line is that it will be a fait accomplit and if the ECB doesn't want to lose c. €150 Billion in liquidity funding it has provided to Irish banks (against doubtful property collateral it doesn't want to own) then it will have to come to some sort of arrangement with the new owners of the banks.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to resolve this politically until a real meltdown occurs and Germany/France realise that their current "screw the Irish" game isn't working and can't work.  Kenny is the very last man you would want fighting your corner in this situation, but even he is beginning to realise he has no where else to go..

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 07:25:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to resolve this politically until a real meltdown occurs and Germany/France realise that their current "screw the Irish" game isn't working and can't work.  Kenny is the very last man you would want fighting your corner in this situation, but even he is beginning to realise he has no where else to go..
The Eurozone powers that be have decided that the best solution is to punt everything to 2013.

Presumably this was under a calculation that 5 years would allow banks to repair their balance sheets enought to be able to absorb default losses. However, then the austerity insanity started and in the 2008-12 5-year period there won't be enough economic growth, and in fact the economic fabric will sustain extensive damage.

So 2013 should be a fun year, assuming we make it there without a major crisis.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 07:50:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that this is all a natural dynamic. I almost cannot blame the various agents, as they are acting in what appears to them to be some kind of best interest. (Did I mention that I'm a Marxist?)

2013 will be a very interesting year, but I think that we'll have plenty of crises along the way.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Mar 24th, 2011 at 12:23:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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