The Crisis of the Euro: “Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?”

“The member states whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality.”
– Amendment to Article 136 of the EU Treaties (TFEU) which was decided on by the 27 EU Member States at the March European Council summit and which licensed the 17 Eurozone States to sign the European Stability Mechanism Treaty on yesterday week, 11 July.
This ESM Treaty would establish a permanent EU bailout fund from 2013. The ESM Treaty and the Art.136 EU Treaty amendment which authorises it now go around for ratification by the Member States. The Government has decided not to put it to referendum here even though it means more power to the EU. The ESM Treaty can be downloaded from the internet.

The Irish Coalition Government, supported by Fianna Fail, intends in the autumn to get the Oireachtas to approve the decision to make the above amendment to the EU Treaties and then to ratify the consequential ESM Treaty for the 17 Eurozone countries.

They do not intend to hold a constitutional referendum, even though the wording of the Art.136 TFEU amendment and the ESM Treaty that derives from it would formally subordinate Ireland’s interests to those of “the stability of the euro area as a whole” … Even though there are no Treaty limits laid down as regards the “strict conditionality” which can be imposed on recipients of financial bailouts from the permanent ESM Fund envisaged … And even though Ireland will be required to contribute some €11 billion in paid-up and callable capital and guarantees once this Fund is set up in 2013.

The Irish Government thereby hopes to circumvent the 1987 Crotty judgement of the Supreme Court that new EU Treaties which extend the scope and powers of the EU and entail further surrenders of Irish sovereignty to Brussels/Frankfort, can only be made if the Irish people agree to them in a constitutional referendum. It is only the sovereign people themselves can decide on further significant surrenders of sovereignty to the EU – not our politicians or our TDs and Senators.

On 12 July Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on RTE that were it not for Spain and Italy he would have been “euphoric” about what happened at the meeting of EU Finance Ministers the day before, when they spoke about the possibility of lowering the penal 6% interest rate being charged for the giant EU/IMF loan that was pushed on Dublin last November.

That was a bit like saying “Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?” The reason Minister Noonan was (almost) euphoric was because (as he said) the euro crisis is no longer about Ireland, Greece or Portugal but about core Europe.

The ultra-Europhiles in Ireland’s Establishment do not care what happens to Ireland, the euro or the EU, as long as they are not blamed.

The lack of self-confidence on the part of Ireland’s “Federalistas” is astonishing.

The powers-that-be bang on about the loss of Irish “economic sovereignty”, but they all want to have the euro debt federalized so that they can brandish an interest rate reduction on the current EU/IMF loan as a superlative political achievement.

Federalizing the debt means the end of the State’s 12.5% Corporation Profits Tax, which is crucial for attracting foreign investment in the Irish economy, and a lot more besides, as Berlin takes over permanently Ireland’s detailed budget decision-taking under the permanent EMS Treaty.

The Irish State is caught between a rock and a hard place, so far as Ireland’s “Federalistas” are concerned. It is bye-bye euro or bye-bye to what is left of Irish sovereignty.

On 16 July the Irish Times called for an EU fiscal and political union in its lead editorial. “This has always been the project’s ultimate end-point,” it stated.

But there was no mention of that being the “ultimate end-point” as Ireland’s paper of record championed passionately and uncritically every step of EU integration down the decades.

What a catastrophe the Eurofanaticism of Ireland’s “Federalistas” has brought down upon the Irish people:

* Pushing us in 1999 to join a monetary union with an area with which we did only one-third of our trade…

* Leading us to adopt totally unsuitable low interest rates in the early 2000s because these suited Germany at the time, so making our “Celtic Tiger” boom “boomier”, as Bertie Ahern put it, and inflating the property bubble…

* And since 2008 turning us into debt peons of the European Central Bank, whose Jean-Claude Trichet told Messrs Cowen and Lenihan at the time of the infamous blanket bank guarantee of 29 September 2008 that Anglo-Irish Bank must on no account be let go bust and that the foreign creditors/bondholders of the Irish banks must be paid every cent in full.

Which EU country had the highest economic growth rate last year? It was Sweden, at 5.5% . . . In the EU but happily outside the Eurozone. Its people sensibly rejected Eurozone membership in 2003 in a referendum vote of 56% to 44%, even though most of that country’s politicians supported abolishing the Swedish kroner at the time.

Angela Merkel now has to find a way of telling her own people that Germany is about to achieve the ambitions for which they fought and lost two World Wars, but that it will cost them money.

She also has to find a way of saying that without the rest of us noticing! And the other Heads of Government have to find a way of telling their electorates that the price of a continuing Eurozone of 17 is permanent German hegemony plus an austerity economic regime with all that that entails.

The only longterm solution of the current crisis is either federalizing the euro sovereign debt or the break-up of the Eurozone of 17. There are now likely to be moves to try to federalize some of the debts. There will be developments pointing to Trichet’s hoped-for EU Finance Ministry and much else besides, but one wishes that the proponents of the EU developing into a United States of Europe would ask themselves what happens after that. Such a logical end-point of the “great EU integration project” would not be the end of European history.

* Do the Euro-federalists really think that the many peoples of the EU would submit to effective German-French economic rule for the indefinite future?

* Do they really believe that they can institute a European democracy without a European “demos”? …

* Or that the latter can somehow be artificially created? …

* Or that people will submit indefinitely to administration by Brussels-Frankfurt technocrats, fronting for Berlin, no matter how benevolent these regard their own intentions?

These quite unrealistic assumptions have been subscribed to by the EU integrationists from the start. These people are now being exposed for the arrogant blunderers and fantasists they are, but millions are suffering terribly, and will suffer further, as they seek to impose ever more austerity on the PIIGS countries in the hope of saving their grand euro-currency “project”.

History has many examples of failed currency unions even though they were also fiscal and political unions.

The Irish State left the British monetary union after a century of membership. An independent Irish currency was seen by successive generations of Irish nationalists as an indispensable part of an independent Irish State.

Where now is the USSR rouble, the Yugoslav dinar, the Czechoslovak crown or the Austro-Hungarian thaler – all currencies of multinational federations that were monetary, fiscal and political unions for three-quarters of a century or longer, and all now vanished into history along with their creators?

Europe is a Europe of the Nations and the States or it is nothing, as Charles De Gaulle once said. That statement of democratic principle of course is internationalism, not nationalism. We need to adopt it as part of the ABC of political realism in face of the current crisis.

Democrats need to work towards a Europe of independent democratic cooperating Nation States, and abandon the fantasy of turning the EU into a world power under effective Franco-German hegemony, with the elites of small countries like Ireland serving as their well-paid local acolytes.

Anthony Coughlan Director The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

To save the eurozone, reform its governance: FT.com

Wolfgang Münchau
Financial Times
www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7e114d26-6115-11df-9bf0-00144feab49a.html
Monday 16 May 2010

The eurozone was never under speculative attack at any time. What happened was that investors, European pension funds among them, lost confidence in the system. And while fiscal profligacy was the root cause of the problems in Greece, it is not the root cause of the problems in Portugal and Spain. That would be a combination of a defunct labour market and massive indebtedness of the private sector.

But instead of solving those structural problems, the two countries last week responded with a fiscal tightening. What makes the economic problem in the Iberian peninsula so difficult is the simultaneous need to reduce debt and improve competitiveness. A reader wrote from Madrid last week that, in his estimation, the price level in his city was about 30 to 40 per cent higher than in Germany – as a result of which he orders all his durable goods from abroad. It is not surprising therefore that we are starting to see core price deflation as Spain cannot maintain a large price differential with Germany forever. If you add fiscal retrenchment into this toxic debt-deflation mix, the result is bound to be a self-sustaining depression, especially in the absence of structural reforms.

So when the European Union’s programme of credit guarantees ends in three years, the same combination of factors that led to the most recent crisis will still be present. The economic situation in Spain and Portugal will have deteriorated. And even if the Greek austerity programme works like clockwork, the country will still probably have to restructure its debt eventually.

What is completely missing in Brussels – and even more so in Berlin – is an understanding of the urgency of the situation. None of the governance reform proposals that are currently discussed even attempt to answer the questions of how Spain is going to get out of this hole, and how the competitiveness gap between the north and the south of the eurozone is going to be closed…

When I read the details of the rescue package, I thought it was ironic that a special purpose vehicle had been chosen to save the eurozone, given our most recent experience with those toxic structures. Come to think of it, perhaps not. They are the perfect instruments if a lack of clarity and transparency is the ultimate purpose. As the fog lifts we will notice that, despite the shiny new umbrella, not much will have changed.

Lean

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