Stephen Archer: "The Eurozone demise is a new age Greek tragedy"

I have read of bankers and politicians suggesting - no, insisting - that the Eurozone crisis can only be solved in the long run by greater political and economic integration. This is like saying that since six of 18 family members are all alcoholics, let's all get drunk together instead.

I am astonished by the intellectual weakness of the integration argument in the face of some fundamental obstacles. But more of that later.

At the time of writing the crisis precipitated by Greece's debt and apparent inability to make much headway in correcting the position is still staggering along. There cannot be any finger nails left to bite in the financial corridors of power and banks of Europe.

Greek tragedy is taking on a whole new meaning now. We know why they are in such a mess and the structural barriers to any kind of rapid resolution. But we must not forget the social and human consequences already unfolding, not just the riots and loss of life but the further impoverishment of the private sector through the austerity measures.

The fact of the matter is that the healthy, northern Europe is exercising a punishing, even retributionist attitude to what they see as a reckless and feckless Greece. This attitude is causing more social unrest and tension within the EU. This is deeply ironic given the implied raison d'etre of the EU.

Crucially the treatment of Greece and the requirements now placed on it constitute medicines that are making the patient sicker. Not only does Greece risk getting sicker but it also risks acquiring new, longer term ailments: industrial sector collapses, degraded health, education services as well as inward investment to mention a few.

Within the Euro, Greece will require at least a decade, perhaps 15-20 years to fully recover. Its hands are tied on fiscal and monetary interventions and it will take a reversion to a far weaker economy in order to be able to grow back out of crisis. There will be a skills drain as people leave the country. Its ability to pay for imports will be crippled.

Greece can only escape if it goes back outside the Euro. To many this has been the unthinkable, doomsday scenario but the alternative of decades of propping up Greece and in turn its creditors now looks like a far worse option and the less certain option.

The cost of exiting the Euro will be significant with the crystallisation of even more debts in the process. But do we as civilised citizens of the world economy have a duty to uphold strict financial measures or can we take a less parochial view?

The side stepping of reality is preventing people facing up to the type of solution needed. The reality is that Greece is bust and is unable to pay off its debts. (Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Belgium are not much healthier though their recovery prospects are better.)

There are two options open to the ECB and IMF. Firstly a very long-term, low-cost debt of forbearance such as fifty years. This would need to be special IMF and ECB bonds and not privately funded.

Secondly, a credit issue followed by cancellation. I am advocating the purchase of maybe 100 billion plus of Greek debt and its immediate write off. This then should be coupled with an orderly exit plan for Greece from the Euro. I would also consider that the simultaneous exit by the peripheral Eurozone members. These just happen to be those in trouble with the exception of Belgium.  The Euro de-coupling will in the long run be simpler and cheaper if all done at once.

I hold the view that Greece, Ireland and the Iberians should exit the Euro as a minimum. This still preserves a significant critical mass in the other Eurozone countries. I would allow no new entrants to the Eurozone for at least a decade and the immediate introduction of cross border sovereign treasury and universal bank audits.

This was astonishingly resisted by members and is one reason for the bailees to have remained as unseen risk for so long. The signs were however still there and the CRA's need to stand by their own failing too.

So back to the fundamental obstacles of fuller integration. This, by the back door, effectively means asking each member state to cede all economic and most political power to the centre; Brussels and Strasburg. Even if this is a winnable argument it will back-fire at some point at a regional level and fail at a central level as centralised economic policy leads to economic compromise and even regional failures.

The real issue is that the economies are structurally and culturally too diverse to be able to fully integrate - a point fully illustrated by the current crisis.

There is no 'one size fits all' in Europe.

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