20.10.2010 - The Day The EU Started Dying

Thursday, October 21, 2010

20.10.2010. Mark this date red. It will be historically regarded as the day the concept of the European Union (EU) started dying. The old continent gets engulfed in protest waves that span from Portugal to Romania and will soon reach probably every member state with the exception of micro-sized Luxembourg once the public receives more information on austerity cuts in the 2011 budgets.
The situation is now getting hairier with every day and it exceeds this blogger's capacities to list all stumbling blocks on the way to a kind of European Orwellian integration envisioned by its leaders, but increasingly resisted by the sovereigns.
I once started this blog to be 5 years ahead of Moody's to ask whether the US' AAA-rating was in jeopardy. It was an easy world then. All you had to do was to lip-read Alan Greenspan's mysterious descriptions of markets to arrive at the conclusion that gold had only one way: upwards on the back of the decline of today's major fiat currencies.
Today's bullet points in OpenEurope's daily email digest of Europa discordia would have yielded several blog posts then. This is beyond the capacity of a single blogger.
Check yourself and remember this is only one day of bad news:
  1. The FT has a memo from Trichet’s office, which says Trichet does not like the deal on the stability pact;
  2. leak shows that there a serious differences over policy at the top level of the eurozone;
  3. Merkel has obtained an assurance from Sarkozy to support the idea of replacing the EFSF with a tough anti-crisis mechanism (in addition to a treaty change to withdraw voting rights, as already reported);
  4. vote on French pension reform is delayed, as protests continue;
  5. in Portugal, uncertainty over the budget continues;
  6. Commission proposes new EU watchdog to deal with cross-border banks in trouble;
  7. Commission also proposes EU-wide taxes to fund EU budget;
  8. Berlusconi and Tremonti plan a big reform of Italy’s budget process;
  9. James Hamilton considers the arguments against QE, and finds some of them convincing;
  10. a Spanish municipality, meanwhile, has become the first to suspend payments to its debtors.
Add in the giant problem of demographics leading to a EU wide pension disaster and a growing feeling that politicians have long ago disconnected from their constituencies and get ready for a bumpy wild ride through this growthless, jobless, creditless "recovery".
At the same time trilateral talks between Russia, Germany and France to "anchor" Russia in the Western world must be a field day for the Russians. Gas, oil, commodities anybody? The EU has none of this and all economic development hinges strongly on a reliable supply of resources that is in limbo as Russia is also courted by raw material hungry China.
Looking into my crystal ball I see an erosion of US-European ties as there is not much the two world regions have to offer to each other anymore. The US is preoccupied with several wars it is losing in the name of petro-theism and Europe will find out quite soon that the pension problem will require very drastic cuts as promises have now exceeded mathematical possibilities.
The US economy is a fatally sick man and Europe's banking crisis has yet to lead to the closure of a single European bank. It is an impossible balance that the USA has closed more than 400 banks since 2008 while not a single institution in Europe has closed its doors yet. As we are talking about the very survival of the EU all countries will apply all dirty tricks to stay above the water line. Expect more spicy bullet point lists like the one above.
This is a financial tsunami in the making and I have the strong feeling that the downfall of a single major player will ignite an uncontrollable banking domino as such a scenario will immediately lead to more closures when one big counterparty cannot meet its financing requirements anymore.
We are in uncharted territory.


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