Monday 22 October 2012

Agreement to agree on maybe agreeing. Perhaps.

The European Council once again agreed to agree on a Banking Union. It says a lot about the state of EU politics that this is a positive sign. The Guardian commented:

"What we are left with is a political fix which remains vulnerable to the fiscal equivalent of the next extreme weather event to hit the eurozone. The ESM, if it ever opens, is a cash machine. It will not solve the underlying factors that caused the mounting debt in the first place. That extreme event could come from a halting Chinese economy or double-dip US recession. Or it could come from mounting social protest. Europe-wide protests will grow because it is now clear, even to those who proposed radical cost-cutting at the G20 summit two years ago, that austerity is not working. The amputated limbs of the euro economy are not growing back of their own accord."

It's right to point out the vagueness and vulnerability of the agreement, but I'd go further: it won't take an extreme economic weather event to throw the agreement into doubt. Where was the extreme weather when Germany, Finland and the Netherlands tried to bury the June Agreement in Koenigstedt.

Yesterday the reported that the Irish dimension to the June Agreement may be revived:

"TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY and the German chancellor Angela Merkel have issued a joint statement affirming that Europe remains committed to splitting Ireland’s banking and sovereign debts.


The two “reaffirmed” that deal, where heads of state told the 17 Eurozone finance ministers “to examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with a view to further improving the sustainability of the well performing adjustment programme”.

The statement said Ireland was recognised as “a special case”, given the circumstances under which Ireland was frozen out of the bond markets, and said the finance ministers would take this into account when examining how to improve the terms of Ireland’s bailout deal."

While this is welcome, it still represents a regression from the deal struck in June: what is the purpose of the banking union if it doesn't divorce sovereigns from the banking debt, and how can it help in the current crisis if it doesn't affect the banking debt of Spain and Ireland? That there was a need to negotiate to return to a partial form of an earlier agreement demonstrates the farcical depths to which European politics has fallen. How can Member States progress on solving the crisis if they now have to work hard to ensure that the deals made aren't unravelled by ad hoc groups of Member States?

The European Council was hardly a shining beacon of good decision-making before, but this naked and self-defeating display of national interest politics is simply something else.

No comments:

Post a Comment