Thursday, January 21, 2016

George Soros on the state of the EU

George Soros has some warnings about the current state of the European Union in ‘The EU Is on the Verge of Collapse’—An Interview, George Soros and Gregor Peter Schmitz New York Review of Books 02/11/2016 issue; accessed 01/21/2016.

... the EU is on the verge of collapse. The Greek crisis taught the European authorities the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road, although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking a ball uphill so that it keeps rolling back down. The EU now is confronted with not one but five or six crises at the same time.
He has an informed account of Angela Merkel's political survival skills and the limitations her survival strategy has imposed on her ability to manage the crises in the EU and the eurozone.

I'm not thrilled about Soros' hawkish position on Ukraine. But it's consistent with his long-held foreign policy positions.

He is very good on the failure of Merkel's policy toward Greece:

I have no reason to change my critical views on her leadership in the euro crisis. Europe could have used the kind of leadership she is showing now much earlier. It is unfortunate that when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, she was not willing to allow the rescue of the European banking system to be guaranteed on a Europe-wide basis because she felt that the prevailing German public opinion would be opposed to it. If she had tried to change public opinion instead of following it, the tragedy of the European Union could have been avoided. ...

The European Union was meant to be a voluntary association of equals but the euro crisis turned it into a relationship between debtors and creditors where the debtors have difficulties in meeting their obligations and the creditors set the conditions that the debtors have to meet. That relationship is neither voluntary nor equal. The migration crisis introduced other fissures. Therefore, the very survival of the EU is at risk.

... Greece was mishandled from the beginning. When the Greek crisis originally surfaced toward the end of 2009, the EU, led by Germany, came to the rescue, but it charged punitive interest rates for the loans it offered. That is what made the Greek national debt unsustainable. And it repeated the same mistake in the recent negotiations. The EU wanted to punish Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and especially his former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis at the same time as it had no choice but to avoid a Greek default. Consequently, the EU imposed conditions that will push Greece into deeper depression.

Schmitz: Is Greece an interesting country for private investors?

Soros: Not as long as it is part of the eurozone. With the euro, the country is unlikely ever to flourish because the exchange rate is too high for it to be competitive. [my emphasis in bold]

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