BRUXELLES (Reuters) – Senior EU officials are speaking privately about a dangerous new phase in the two-year-old euro zone crisis. Grecia – the spark for the conflagration – is close to intractable and Italy, the region’s third largest economy and biggest bond market, is cause of grave concern.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte provided perhaps the clearest indication yet that Greece’s 10-year euro membership might not be forever, outlining on Wednesday a plan under which a member state could leave the currency bloc if it consistently and repeatedly ignored budget deficit and other obligations.
“Countries which are not prepared to be placed under administratorship can choose to use the possibility to leave the euro zone,” he and his finance and economics ministers wrote in a proposal sent to the Dutch parliament, although it did not mention Greece or any other member state by name.
In whispers, some officials are giving a stark assessment, even if they do not yet represent the mainstream of EU thinking, where many still talk about a solution being found.
“I think the euro zone is on the verge of collapse,” said one senior official involved in analyzing solutions to the crisis.
“Italy is the only country that matters now. Forget about Greece. Even if you could find a way to get Greece out of the euro zone, it wouldn’t resolve the Italian problem and it wouldn’t resolve the debt crisis.”
From the European Commission’s point of view, a country leaving the currency bloc is not only not being debated, it is not even possible, with the statutes that govern membership making no provision for members to leave the club.
“Neither exit nor expulsion from the euro area is possible according to the Lisbon treaty under which participation in the euro is irrevocable,” the Commission’s spokesman on economic and monetary affairs, Amadeu Altafaj, ha detto il Giovedi.
As one senior EU official put it succinctly: “The euro zone is not a cafe where you go in and you go out. The financial and monetary interdependence is so big, so strong… that the fate of one member creates problems for all of the others.”
Devo restare o devo andare
Detto, tuttavia, le opzioni disponibili per risolvere la situazione in Grecia, dove sono stati costantemente perso misure deficit di taglio e di altri obiettivi UE / FMI-imposte, stanno rapidamente restringendo. E come si restringono, l'impazienza cresce.
Se la Grecia non riesce a consegnare ai suoi obblighi, che comprendono la raccolta 5 miliardi di euro di privatizzazioni quest'anno, Ue e Fmi hanno detto che non saranno in grado di rilasciare più aiuti al paese, che ha già ricevuto uno di 110 miliardi di euro UE / FMI salvataggio e si prevede di ricevere un altro della stessa dimensione presto.
A quel punto, se dovesse avere ulteriori linee di vita, La Grecia può trovare se stesso con altra scelta che prendere in considerazione l'impensabile — inadempiente sui suoi debiti, rinunciare all'euro, reintroducing the drachma at a deeply discounted rate and attempting to stimulate a recovery via a painful devaluation.
Greek debt owned by private sector investors and the European Central Bank would be marked down by 50 percent or more, with the reverberations felt from Brussels to Beijing.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the situation is serious in Greece,” German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble , who has been at the heart of trying to resolve the crisis for the past two years, stated simply as he began a speech to Germany’s Bundestag on Thursday.
“At the moment the troika (UE / FMI / BCE) mission is suspended. There can be no illusions here. As long as this mission cannot confirm that Greece has fulfilled the conditions, then the next aid tranche cannot be paid. There is no wiggle room here.”
No one is saying it explicitly, but the Catch-22 for Athens would appear to be: “You can’t leave the euro zone, but you don’t have what it takes to stay in it either.”
Private economic analysts have begun to conclude that it is only a matter of time before a way is found to let Greece go.
“We are increasingly of the view that Greece will exit the euro,” Mark Burgess, chief investment officer of Threadneedle Investments, which has long been negative on the euro zone during the crisis, said in a research note this week.
“La domanda è:, is it done in a coordinated fashion, accompanied by a state-funded recapitalizing of the banking system, a cut in rates and a massive injection of liquidity, or is it uncoordinated?”
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Studies on how a country can leave or be forced to leave the euro zone have been done in the past, including a detailed examination by the European Central Bank in December 2009, which concluded that unilateral withdrawal from the euro would not be inconceivable, although it would also mean exit from the EU.
While a country might be able to find the legal grounds to quit the euro and the EU of its own accord, it wouldn’t be so possible for the euro zone or the EU to force a member out.
“Expulsion from either the EU or Economic and Monetary Union would be so challenging, conceptually, legally and practically, that its likelihood is close to zero,” the paper said.
That means that even if the rest of the euro zone were to decide Athens is no longer a viable member, sarebbero attaccato con esso per tutto il tempo la Grecia vuole rimanere nel club.
A questo proposito, quelli preoccupati per la capacità della Grecia di rispettare gli obblighi e preoccupati per la sua minaccia all'integrità della zona euro potrebbero essere meglio concentrando la loro attenzione su problemi più grandi che minacciano di fratturare il blocco, quali problemi di debito dell'Italia e le conseguenze di un potenziale inadempimento da parte di Roma.
Con un sovrano mercato obbligazionario del valore di circa 1.9 miliardi di euro — 120 per cento del PIL — L'Italia è un grosso peso al cuore dell'Europa. In giro 45 per cento dei suoi debiti si svolgono all'estero, con molte banche e sovrani principali creditori europei.
“Se Italia default, quasi ogni banca in Europa si sentirebbe l'impatto o fallire, sia perché possiedono debito o che siano parti di debito,” said the official involved in analyzing the ramifications of the debt crisis.
“Italy is too big to save and too big to fail. If the ECB stops buying Italian bonds, then we’re really in trouble and no one will be thinking about the problems with Greece.”