Financial market report for September 6, 2011
1) … A presumed flight to safety in US Treasuries continued today, with TMF, up 3.2%, Zeroes, ZROZ, up 1.5%, 30 Year US Government Bonds, EDV, up 1.3%, and 10 Year US Treasuries, TLT, up 1.0%, as World Stocks Stocks, ACWI, fell 2% and World Small Cap Stocks, VSS, fell 3.0%, as European Financials, EUFN, collapsed 7% in value today, taking Germany, EWG, and German Small Caps, EWGJ, France, EWQ, Spain, EWP, Italy, EWI,, Russia Small Caps, RSXJ, Netherlands, EWN, Sweden, EWD, Argentina, ARGT, Chile, ECH, Australia Small Caps, KROO, Austria, and European Shares, VGK, lower, as doubts resurfaced over the political will of Italy and Greece to push through tough budget and debt measures demanded by other euro zone members, while Germany hardened its stand against giving them more aid.
Zero Hedge reports European Scramble To ECB Safety At Highest In Over A Year As ECB Deposits Surge To €167 Billion
Bloomberg reports RBS Leads Europe Banks Lower on U.S. Mortgage Suit, Liquidity Speculation. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (NYSE:RBS) led European banks lower, dropping the most in more than two years after 17 lenders were sued by the U.S. over the sale of mortgage-backed securities and on investor concern over interbank lending. RBS, Britain’s biggest government-owned lender, fell 12 percent, the sharpest decline since May 2009. Other European lenders also fell including Barclays Plc (NYSE:BCS), down 7 percent, and Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) retreated 8 percent. And Bloomberg also reports Italy's bonds, bank stocks plunge on concern. This as Zero Hedge reports Italy to miss GDP forecast, sees sub 1% GDP growth and Zero Hedge also reports The CEO of Europe's Most Troubled Bank, Dexia, Quits as Contagion Tsunami Sweeps Over Belgium.
Gary of Between The Hedges reports The Italy and Belgium sovereign cds are making new record highs again today. The Greece, Germany, Spain and France sovereign cds are still near their recent all-time highs. The Eurozone Financial Sector and Western European Sovereign CDS Indices are also making new all-time highs today. The 3-Month Euro Basis Swap dropped another -3.06 bps to -99.69 bps, which is another new cycle low. And Yahoo Finance reports, The Too Big To Fail Banks, RWW, fell 3.5%.
Mrs Merkel’s political career is likely history as Bloomberg reports Merkel's Euro Debt Crisis Gambit Ends in Election Defeat in Her Home State. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party suffered its fifth election loss this year after she failed to sway voters in her home state with a campaign based on her handling of the euro-area debt crisis. The Social Democrats, the main opposition party nationally, took 35.7 percent to win yesterday’s election in Mecklenburg- Western Pomerania, preliminary results show. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union had 23.1 percent, its worst tally since voting began in the state in 1990 after reunification that year between West Germany and the former communist East Germany. The result in the eastern state where Merkel’s election district is located means her national coalition has been defeated or lost votes in all six German state elections so far this year as voters resist her bid to prevent a euro-region breakup by putting more taxpayer money on the line for bailouts. “Merkel’s problem is that she fails to generate confidence in her policies and those of her coalition partner,” Gero Neugebauer, a political science professor at the Free University in Berlin, said by phone. “It’s about the consistency of her statements” on bailouts for indebted euro countries.
Nevertheless, the August Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy Comminique for a “true European economic government” has now received strong support. Louise Story and Matthew Saltmarsh in NYT article European Talk Of Sharp Change In Fiscal Affairs report Last Thursday, Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, told the newspaper Bild that he would like to see the European Union’s treaty revised, an arduous process, to enable the union to make common fiscal policies. An official in the German Finance Ministry, who was not authorized to speak on the matter publicly, said the ministry was trying to avoid terms like fiscal union because it would alienate voters. But he acknowledged that it saw such a union as both necessary and inevitable. “You could call it a fiscal union, but the minister won’t do that,” the official said. “What we are talking about is pooling our fiscal policy and doing to fiscal policy what we’ve done with monetary policy.” The euro zone is also moving to increase oversight of countries’ budget plans earlier in the process and to give the European Commission greater power to propose financial penalties on countries that violate the rules, unless blocked by a large majority of members. If and when that happens, said Graham Bishop, an independent financial analyst who has advised the British and European Parliaments, it “would be the moment of collective control of an errant state, the final step toward a de facto political union.”
Mario Draghi is an ambassador of the Ten Toed Kingdom of regional economic government called for by the Club of Rome in 1974; the ten toes being the world’s ten regions. He said in Liz Alderman and James Kanter NYT article European Bankers Urge Leaders To Move Quickly On Debt Crisis, Europe needs to “make a quantum leap in economic and political integration.” Mr. Draghi’s call goes to the heart of what politicians now acknowledge is a root cause of Europe’s crisis, but that few seem ready to change: the lack of a federal fiscal union that would make the euro zone look more like the United States. The idea is something that Germany and others are wary of because it could undermine their national authority. In Brussels, meanwhile, an unusual gathering of former European leaders, academics and industrialists urged politicians to recognize that part of the answer to Europe’s ills was to give up some sovereignty to keep the euro alive. “It has become clear that a monetary union without some form of fiscal federalism and coordinated economic policy will not work,” the group said in a statement. Its members include a former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder; a former Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen; and Nouriel Roubini, a New York University economist. “Either the Europeans move forward,” Mr. Roubini said, or face “a situation of potential breakup or disintegration.”
Clearly the above report evidences that a bloodless coup d etat is underway.
Doug Noland has communicated that Neoliberalism was characterized by wildcat finance; in contrast, Neoauthoritarianism, is characterized by wildcat governance where leaders bite, tear and rip one another apart. Between The Hedges continues with other Bloomberg news. Merkel Said to Tell CDU Members That Greece Must Meet Conditions for Aid. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told members of her Christian Democrats that Greece will not receive aid payments due this month unless it meets conditions of the rescue, two party officials said. The remarks, made at a meeting of ruling party lawmakers in Berlin late yesterday, were repeated by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and reiterate existing policy, one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were in private. “It was very clear that we expect Greece to meet its obligations, that there can’t be more aid without adequate behavior by Greece,” Peter Altmaier, the chief whip for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told reporters after the talks. “But it was also very clear that we stand by our commitments within the euro stabilization and that we’re ready to maintain and defend the euro as our common currency.” Merkel’s coalition is trying to appease voter anger at government moves to prevent a euro-region breakup by putting more taxpayers’ money on the line. The coalition will introduce a bill in parliament today raising Germany’s share of loan guarantees to 211 billion euros ($297 billion) from 123 billion euros -- two days after Merkel’s CDU suffered its worst-ever result in an election in her home state.
Tremonti Rushes to Rome for Austerity Talks as Bonds Plunge. Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti canceled a public appearance in northern Italy to rush to Rome for budget talks as bonds plunged amid concern the government may backslide on its latest austerity package. “The minister received a request to head to Rome immediately to go to the Senate, just as he was coming to Piacenza,” Stefano Rodota, moderator of the conference where Tremonti had been scheduled to speak, announced at the event, which was broadcast live on the Internet. The Senate will begin a debate tomorrow on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s 45.5 billion-euro ($64 billion) austerity package just as CGIL, the nation’s biggest union, holds a strike across Italy against the measures. “The austerity plan runs the risk of becoming a farce and this weighs on those banks holding lots of government bonds,” Gianmaria Bergantino, a fund manager at Bank Insinger de Beaufort in Rome, said by phone. “As the government doesn’t seem to be responding to the ECB’s requests, investors are starting to price in a further budget adjustment within a month.” The price of the nation’s 10-year bond fell for an 11th day, pushing the yield to 5.57 percent, the highest in more than four weeks. Milan’s stock benchmark FTSE MIB Index closed down 4.8 percent, with UniCredit SpA and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, Italy’s biggest banks, dropping 7.3 and 7 percent, respectively.
Schaeuble Urges Curbs on European Debt to Soothe Global Market 'Anxiety'. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called on euro-area governments to fully implement curbs on debt, saying that only fiscal “solidity” will help tame financial-market turmoil. Schaeuble’s comments to lawmakers in Berlin today seek to raise the pressure on euro-area states to follow Germany and clamp down on debt to tackle the core cause of the sovereign crisis that is rocking markets worldwide. Financial markets are in “a state of anxiety,” requiring “a new mentality” rather than short-term stimulus, he said. “Markets are not the problem, excesses are,” Schaeuble said in parliament’s first session after the summer recess, as he opened a debate on the 2012 budget. The constitutionally mandated debt ceiling enacted by Germany and now being emulated by France and Spain is “of fundamental importance,” he said. Only “financial-policy solidity will win the confidence of markets.”
ECB Asked Spain to Cut Deficit, Change Labor Rules, Mundo Says. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet wrote to the Spanish government asking it to tackle the budget deficit and cut unemployment, El Mundo said. As part of the ECB’s plan to buy Spanish bonds on the secondary market, Trichet asked the government to take steps to prevent the budget deficit overshooting its target of 6 percent of gross domestic product this year, El Mundo reported, without saying where it got the information. He also urged the administration to carry out another overhaul of wage bargaining rules to allow for a deeper correction in Spanish salaries and to make hiring rules more flexible, the newspaper said.
Greek Yields, CDS at Records on Debt Concern; Italy Notes Slide. Greece’s two- and 10-year yields rose to records on speculation the nation’s deepening recession may make a second international bailout agreement redundant even before it’s implemented. German two- and 10-year yields dropped to all-time lows as equities fell. The yield difference, or spread, between Greek 10-year bonds and German bunds widened to the most since at least 1998, and the cost of insuring against default on Greek sovereign debt surged to a record. Italian two-year yields rose to the highest level in a month as workers held a general strike. Spanish 10-year bonds rose for the time in eight days as the European Central Bank bought the nation’s debt. “The consensus seems to be that the second bailout package for Greece might be obsolete before it has been put into law, which is obviously detrimental for sentiment,” said Michael Leister, a fixed-income strategist at WestLB AG in London. “The ECB is having a hard time stabilizing these markets. The pressure is rising.” Greece’s 10-year yield climbed 50 basis points to 19.81 percent at 4:51 p.m. in London. The 6.25 percent security due June 2020, fell 1.155, or 11.55 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,400) face amount, to 45.47. Two-year note yields added 283 basis points, or 2.83 percentage points, to 53.20 percent. The yield spread between Greek 10-year securities and similar-maturity German bunds widened as much as 50 basis points to a euro-era record 1,796 basis points. Credit-default swaps on Greece climbed 109 basis points to 2,659, according to CMA. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told members of her Christian Democrat party that Greece will not receive aid payments due this month unless it meets conditions of the rescue, two party officials said. Greece’s economic woes, wavering commitment to budget cuts in Italy and mounting borrowing costs for European banks underscore investor concern that efforts by euro-area officials to contain the debt crisis are unraveling. Portuguese two-year notes fell for a third day, pushing the yield on the securities up 77 basis points to 14.48 percent, after touching 14.62 percent, the highest level since Aug. 4. The nation’s 10-year bond yield reached 10.87 percent, the most since Aug. 30. The yield difference between Belgian 10-year bonds and similar-maturity German bunds widened as much as eight basis points to 233 basis points. That’s the widest since the euro’s debut in 1999, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Berlusconi Cabinet Will Call for Confidence Vote on Revised Austerity Plan. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called a Cabinet meeting today to authorize a confidence vote in Parliament on an amended 45.5 billion-euro ($64.5 billion) austerity plan that prompted a general strike. The meeting at 6 p.m. in Rome will pave the way for a vote on the measures, which will include raising the value-added tax rate by one percentage point to 21 percent, a 3 percent levy on incomes of more than 500,000 euros a year as well as an increase in the retirement age of women in the private sector starting in 2014, Berlusconi’s office said in an e-mailed statement.
The cost of insuring against default on European bank bonds rose to a record as the region's debt crisis roils credit markets. The Markit iTraxx Financial Index linked to the senior debt of 25 banks and insurers increased 7 basis points to 277, according to JPMorgan Chase at 4 pm in London. The subordinated index was up 6.5 basis points at 487.5 basis points. Credit-default swaps on Madrid-based Banco Popular Espanol SA increased 48 basis points to 847, according to CMA. The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe Index of swaps on 15 governments rose 4 basis points to a record 330. The Markit iTraxx Crossover Index of credit-default swaps on 40 companies with mostly high-yield credit ratings increased 15.5 basis points to 771, the highest level since July 2009, according to JPMorgan
Reuters reports obtained by Reuters. Eurozone Worries Raise Dollar Funding Costs and Reuters also reports Former German Leader Calls for 'United States of Europe'. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Sunday called for the creation of a "United States of Europe", saying the bloc needed a common government to avoid future economic crises. Schroeder, a Social Democrat who ran the country from 1998 to 2005, said in an interview with Der Spiegel that European Union leaders were wrong to expect the euro to drive the bloc on its own. "The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy," Schroeder said. He added: "We will have to give up national sovereignty." "From the European Commission, we should make a government which would be supervised by the European Parliament. And that means the United States of Europe."
SkyNews reports Moody's Poised To Deliver Bank Downgrades. The ratings agency Moody’s is poised to downgrade the creditworthiness of some of Britain’s biggest banks and building societies after a key report on banking reform this month that is set to recommend the imposition of robust firewalls and more stringent capital requirements. I have learned that executives at Moody’s met this week with a number of major UK financial institutions to renew a hint that the Independent Commission on Banking’s (ICB’s) report on September 12 would be followed by a decision to downgrade the credit ratings of some of the 14 lenders whose credit status it is reviewing. These include the state-backed Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as well as Santander UK and the Yorkshire Building Society. The potential move by Moody’s – one of the world’s largest ratings agencies – may spark a row with senior British bankers, who argue that Sir John Vickers’ report should not provide a trigger for the agency to announce decisions which they are concerned could have consequences for their ability to fund themselves. An announcement is expected by Moody's before the end of September.
LeSoir reports Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, said Belgium needs structural Economic reforms. Junk said he "wonders" if Belgium's caretaker government can push through such reforms, citing an interview. And Luxembuorg's Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, called for "immediate sanctions" on countries that violate the single-currency zone's Stability and Growth Pact. Juncker said euro-area countries must return to "strict respect" of the pact and should reinforce it by "increasing penalties" on nations that "are at odds with the application of the rules," citing an interview. "We need immediate sanctions," Juncker said. "We're working on that."
NET TV European Union, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank officials are asking Greece to better implement fiscal measures, Elias Plaskovitis, general secretary of the country's finance ministry said. "The troika assigns part of the blame for the recession to inefficient structural reforms," Plaskovitis said. "They are asking for more radical measures and the implementation of reforms."
The WSJ reports Slovak Official's Delay of Rescue Fund Vote Poses Problem for Euro Zone. Slovakia's Parliament Speaker Says He Will Push Back Vote to Widen Role of Fund. Slovak lawmakers will reconvene here Tuesday after their summer break, but a critical piece of legislation will be conspicuously absent from the agenda: A bill to widen the role of a euro-zone rescue fund. Parliament Speaker Richard Sulik said he will do everything he can to delay a vote on the measure—passage of which is necessary for the common currency bloc to move ahead with plans to strengthen the financial safety net for the euro's weakest members. As speaker, Mr. Sulik has significant power in setting Parliament's legislative agenda. "It's not possible to solve a debt crisis by creating new debts," Mr. Sulik said in an interview Friday, in which he made clear his opposition to any expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility. He pledged to postpone a final vote on the measure until at least the end of the year. The delay is one of a growing list of potential disruptions that is vexing European policy makers and unsettling markets, which are anxious about precarious state finances in Greece and Italy and are questioning the political resolve of euro-zone governments.
Ambrose Evans Pritchard relates the following EU law "gutted" by bail-outs, says Bundesbank. Germany's Bundesbank has issued a thundering denunciation of Europe's rescue policies and actions by the European Central Bank, alleging that EU treaty law has been "completely gutted.” And writes German endgame for EMU draws ever nearer. For fifty years Germany has invariably stumped up the money required to keep Europe’s Project on track, responding to unreasonable demands with grace and generosity.
Mike Mish Shedlock reports Trichet warns heads of states. and writes Italy needs to rollover record €62-billion bonds. and relates Greek 1-Year Bond Yield Hits 88.48% as Greek one-year bonds march relentlessly towards a yield of 100%.
Whereas Neoliberalism was characterized by the Spirit of the Cat in the Hat, Neoauthoritarianism is characterized by the Spirits of Wilding. The NY Post reports 46 Shot in Brooklyn Since Saturday Morning. Gunfire erupted today near the massive West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn -- not far from where Mayor Bloomberg was marching, as the entire city reeled from a epidemic of shootings over the past two days. By noon today, a total of 46 people had been shot in the city since Saturday morning, authorities said.
Gold, $GOLD, traded 0.6% lower to close at 1,873. The HUI precious metal mining shares , GDX, manifested a long legged doji to close up 0.6% at 65.34.
2) … World currencies fell sharply confirming an end to the Milton Friedman Free To Choose Floating Currency regime, The Swiss Franc, FXF, was the currency loss leader of the day, collapsing 8.3%. The once Beneficial Regime of Neoliberalism, is being supplanted by the Beast Regime of Neoauthoritarianism, as currencies that once floated are now sinking, and as quantitative easing exhausts, as is seen in the 2% fall in steel SLX.
Debt deflation, that is currency deflation, finally came to currencies today. It is the market, not the central banks that are effecting competitive currency deflation, that is competitive currency devaluation.
Currencies fell as follows today. FXF -8.3, BNZ -3.1, XRU -1.8, SZR -1.7, BZF -1.7, FXB -1.7, FXE -1.4, FXS -1.3, FXA -1.3, FXY -1.1, CEW -1.0, FXM -1.0, ICN -0.7 and FXC -0,6. The US Dollar, $USD, rose 1.8% to close at 75.59 which is its triple high since late April when stocks began to turn lower.
3) … A global Eurasia war is coming as the WSJ reports U.S. Eyes Covert Plan to Counter Iran in Iraq. Military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to U.S. officials. The move comes amid growing concern in the Obama administration about Iran's attempts in recent months to expand its influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East and what it says is Tehran's increased arms smuggling to its allies. And Ynetnews reports IDF General: Likelihood of Regional War. Senior IDF officer warns of 'radical Islamic winter' that may lead to regional war, could prompt use of WMDs; new, more lethal weapons discovered in hands of terrorists during latest round of fighting in Gaza, Major General Eisenberg says. "It looks like the Arab Spring, but it can also be a radical Islamic winter," he said in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. "This leads us to the conclusion that through a long-term process, the likelihood of an all-out war is increasingly growing," the IDF general said. (Hat Tip to Between The Hedges)
4) … The NYT reports Postal Service Is Nearing Default as Losses Mount. The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances. “Our situation is extremely serious,” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will default.” In recent weeks, Mr. Donahoe has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency’s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. And the Washington Post reports U.S. Postal Service May Lose $8 Billion More. The postmaster general is going to Congress to discuss the Postal Service’s mounting debt. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is among the witnesses scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Postal Service is facing a second straight year of losses of $8 billion or more. A decline in mail because of the Internet and the loss of revenue from advertising amid the economic downturn have taken a toll on the agency. Postal officials say they will be unable to make this month’s $5.5 billion payment to cover future employee health care costs because the agency will have reached its borrowing limit and doesn’t have enough cash. (Hat Tip to Between The Hedges)
5) … EconomicPolicy Journal reports 430,000 Protest High Prices in Israel. Some 430,000 people took to the streets in rallies across Israel Saturday night in a protest against soaring prices. The biggest march was in Tel Aviv, where up to 300,000 took part, reports The Guardian. There was an unprecedented 50,000-strong protest in Jerusalem and a 40,000-strong showing in Haifa. The movement behind the protests has the support of about 90% of the population according to opinion polls. In 2009, Israel's central bank increased the money supply by 52%.
6) … Out of a soon coming global economic collapse, an Iron Chancellor, will rise in power to lead a European Super State. This Sovereign will be a New Charlemagne, and will head up a revived Roman Empire, acting as the President of the EU. He will be accompanies by a European Banker, the Seignior.
Neoliberalism was characterized by the clay of democracy. Neoauthoritarianism is charactrized by the iron of diktat. Neoliberalism was characterized by choice and national sovereignty; these are epitaths and placards of a bygone era. Liberty is a mirage on the Neoauthoritarian Desert of the Real.
As Mike Mish Shedlock writes, Banks will not survive. Deutsche Bank CEO says "It's Obvious Many Banks Will Not Survive if Forced to Value Sovereign Debt at Market Prices"
Falling currencies turned sovereign debt lower globally except in the US which got a boost from the rising dollar. World government bonds, BWX, turned parabilically lower, and emerging market bonds, EMB, turned lower. It was carry trade investing from the Bank of Japan, as well as banks in Austria, together with the securitization of sovereign debt by Wall Street that produced moneyness under Neoliberalism. Banks world wide will be integrated into governments, as the final phase of state corporatism appears. Moneyness under Neoauthoritarianism, that is seigniorage, will come from the word, will and way of the Sovereign and the Seignior. They will impose Austerity and Debt Servitude on every man, woman and child in Europe and eventually the entire world.
Der Spiegel in article Berlin Lays Groundwork for a Two-Speed Europe reports The monetary union already had its own bodies that make decisions more or less independently of the European Commission. The important decisions have already been made for some time within the Euro Group, the group of finance ministers from the member states of the monetary union. They meet once a month, or more often, if necessary.
A New Shadow Government for the EU. But that isn't enough for Merkel and Sarkozy. They want the 17 leaders of the euro zone countries to convene for a summit twice a year, with Van Rompuy serving as its permanent chairman. The Belgian would also receive a bureaucratic structure for his new responsibilities, giving the Euro Group its own secretariat. According to initial ideas, the new agency would be appended to an existing European Council secretariat, so that the separation doesn't seem too obvious.
The group of finance ministers of the euro zone, which prepares the groundwork prior to meetings of heads of state and government, may also be strengthened. An idea being considered is to provide it with a full-time chairman, who would serve as a contact for Van Rompuy. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has taken care of the duties until now. The new chairman would be a former finance minister, making him more acceptable to a group of his peers.
While that is still in the planning stages, it has already been resolved that the working group of finance state secretaries will have a full-time chairman with his own team of employees. The body, with the cumbersome title Eurogroup Working Group, does the detail-oriented heavy lifting ahead of finance minister meetings. In short, a kind of shadow government is currently taking shape in Brussels. But officials in Berlin have begun considering ideas which go even further. Merkel, for example, is thinking about introducing a right to file complaints before the European Court of Justice against euro-zone member states that violate the Stability Pact. Such a move would require an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty.
At present, such ideas are still in the development stage -- and it isn't even clear whether the chancellor will be able to prevail with her ideas for a core Europe. Based on experiences to date, it seems highly doubtful that the EU member states can even agree on taking a significant step toward integrating their economic policies.
"Everyone agrees that stronger coordination of economic policy is a good idea," says Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski. But, he adds, as soon as steps in this direction become more concrete, individual states begin to block the initiative. "I have never met a finance minister from another country who has asked me what he can do to help, in terms of economic policy," Rostowski scoffs.
And evidence of a lack of willingness to coordinate is not hard to find. A so-called European Semester, for example, was introduced at the beginning of the year with great fanfare. Although it gives the Commission the right to monitor national budgets to gain more control over the debtor nations, the Commission cannot do more than issue recommendations. If countries do not comply with austerity requirements, as is currently the case with Italy, the Commission has no leverage to correct national fiscal policy.
The self-proclaimed boosters of enhanced integration also hesitate when they are the ones being asked to give up competencies. Sarkozy, for instance, is still blocking an agreement with the European Commission and the European Parliament on reforming the Stability Pact. Germany and France support the so-called intergovernmental method, which involves agreements being made among the member states. This prevents the European Commission and the European Parliament from having too much of a say. But small countries, in particular, fear that they cannot protect their interests against the large countries without the help of the Commission. The concern is that the large countries will end up dominating the smaller countries. "You can push experiments involving greater cooperation at the intergovernmental level, but in the end this policy should become part of the EU agreements," says Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders.
Automatic Earth reports Austerity is Coming to the People of the Sun