The Chancellor and the blind

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

So it finally happened, Chancellor Angela Merkel has coughed up the big one. A Greek exit from the Euro, following the elections of January 25th, is no longer unconceivable. This declaration has been reported by the internet site of the weekly « Der Spiegel » on Saturday, January 3. It is an important statement, which one may analyze in two different ways, which are not exclusive.

A - aveugles

To begin with, Mrs Merkel, with great Germanic subtlety, has decided to put the Greek voter under pressure. Yes, if you « vote badly » an exit of your country from the Euro will be considered. So, you better toe the line! Lacking subtlety, this is certainly more efficient than the call of Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissary, urging the voters to vote for a continuation of reforms. Some people have no shame. As if the Greeks still harboured the slightest doubt as to the meaning of these reforms, which have brought their country to its knees and provoked a sharp increase in mortality. The truth is, these reforms have not had the expected result, which is perfectly normal when one considers the realities of the economy. The weak growth registered by Greece (+0,7% after the dizzying fall of the past years) is solely due to a good tourist season [1]. Exports have continued to decrease in 2014, a process which was accelerated by the embargo on agricultural products decreed by Russia following the sanctions decided by the European Union. But Mrs Merkel could be making a “grosse” error in supposing that the Greek population is still attached to the Euro. In fact, a survey made by Gallup International in 2014 gives some interesting results, which are by no means surprising:

Table 1

Results of the survey (December 2014)

 

The European Union

 

In relation to the Euro

Do you feel close to

10%

Do you wish to keep the Euro

32%

Do you feel rather far from

52%

Do you wish to go back to the national currency

52%

No change

35%

No opinion

11%

No answer

3%

No answer

5%

Fieldwork conducted by WIN/Gallup International – www.Gallup-international.com »

It is therefore in no way demonstrated that the threat brandished by Mrs Merkel, who is incidentally demonstrating her “elevated” conception of democracy, will have the hoped for effect on the Greek voter.

The second say of looking at this declaration is to see in it the breaking of an absolute taboo: one doesn’t get out of the Eurozone! What has not been said, and what imbecilities have not been proffered on this subject in various occasions. Without pretending to an exhaustive compendium, we have been treated to « an exit from the Euro would double the amount of the French debt » (Nicolas Sarkozy who, from all evidence, despite being a lawyer, ignores international law and the fact that a security emitted in France is to be paid back in the currency of France) or that « a devaluation of the Franc of 20% would translate into an increase of 20% of the price of fuel at the pump » (the world price of oil has diminished by 50% – have you noticed an equivalent drop when you stopped at the gas station?) and finally “an exit from the Euro would provoke an increase in unemployment of 1,5 millions » (Institut Montaigne) when all economic calculations show in the contrary a sharp improvement in employment in the three years following a dissolution of the Eurozone and a 20% depreciation of the recovered Franc[2]. The breaking of this taboo by Mrs Merkel in person must have been a real shock to the eurolatrists of all persuasions, be they from the right (Fillon) or from the « left ». One can imagine the baffled miens, the shattered airs, the pervasive panic.  One can already hear the luminous comments like those who came out of the ineffable Pierre Moscovici : « but this will be tantamount to saying that the Front National is right »…Horresco referens. Of course, it would not occur to any one of these « great minds » that it is precisely by dissolving the Euro right now, cold, that one would take away from the Front National one of its best argument. It is true that Jupiter, whom the Greeks call Zeus, renders mad those he wants to undo… And Pierre Moscovici will be able to return to his trough (at 25,000 euros per month it’s true that it is gold-plated) to lie down under Mrs Merkel’s broom.

It is important nevertheless to understand the reasons which can have brought the Chancellor to break with this taboo. Is it because she has realized that the Eurozone is dead in reality? There is no longer any banking integration, contrarily to what is being maintained, this has been demonstrated by two authors, Anne-Laure Delatte and Vincent Bouvatier in a paper to be read on the website VOX of the CEPR[3]. Or does Mrs Merkel know that behind Greece there looms a crisis of a quite different importance in Italy, which could be rapidly joined by Spain and France? In short, is her declaration the product of a « weariness » in assisting, for one knows that the Greek problem is doomed to resurface regularly on the menu of European Councils, or is it the awareness of an accumulation of problems, economic as well as political, which will rapidly render the Eurozone un-manageable ? It is not impossible, in this case, that Mrs Merkel, who will want to avoid the political rupture of the Eurozone falling onto the shoulders of Germany, is seeking in a prepared  crisis an occasion to proceed to a dissolution which she senses to be inevitable.

One must also evaluate the impact of such a declaration on the French government. Does it even understand that it is holding in its very hands the last, the very last chance to get back the upper-hand? If in our government there were to be found the lucidity and the courage which events demand, it would step ahead and, rather than being content with a reactive posture, it would grab the opportunity offered by Mrs Merkel and it would propose a concerted dissolution of the Euro. One must fear that, shut off in an autism that is political as well as economic, nothing of the kind will happen, and that we will continue to move towards the crisis like the blind (Brueghel’s blind), amid a world in full tumult.


[1] J. Bastian, « Is there (sustainable) growth in Greece? », published 19 November on the Blog Macropolis, 14 November 2014, http://www.macropolis.gr/?i=portal.en.the-agora.1720

[2] We send the reader to the brochure written by Sapir J., Murer P. et Durand C., Les Scénarii d’une dissolution de l’Euro, Fondation ResPublica, Paris, September 2013.

[3] Vincent Bouvatier, Anne-Laure Delatte, Eurozone bank integration: EU versus non-EU banks,  14 Decembre 2014, http://www.voxeu.org/article/eurozone-bank-integration-eu-versus-non-eu-banks

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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