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Ten Days to Save the Eurozone?

Or so Wolfgang Münchau says:

The eurozone really has only days to avoid collapse: In virtually all the debates about the eurozone I have been engaged in, someone usually makes the point that it is only when things get bad enough, the politicians finally act – eurobond, debt monetisation, quantitative easing, whatever. I am not so sure. The argument ignores the problem of acute collective action. Last week, the crisis reached a new qualitative stage. With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function.

The banking sector, too, is broken. Important parts of the eurozone economy are cut off from credit. The eurozone is now subject to a run by global investors, and a quiet bank run among its citizens. This massive erosion of trust has also destroyed the main plank of the rescue strategy. The European Financial Stability Facility derives its firepower from the guarantees of its shareholders. As the crisis has spread to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, the EFSF itself is affected by the contagious spread of the disease. Unless something very drastic happens, the eurozone could break up very soon.

Technically, one can solve the problem even now, but the options are becoming more limited. The eurozone needs to take three decisions very shortly, with very little potential for the usual fudges. First, the European Central Bank must agree a backstop of some kind…. The second measure is a firm timetable for a eurozone bond…. The third decision is a fiscal union. This would involve a partial loss of national sovereignty, and the creation of a credible institutional framework to deal with fiscal policy….

I am hearing that there are exploratory talks about a compromise package comprising those three elements. If the European summit could reach a deal on December 9, its next scheduled meeting, the eurozone will survive. If not, it risks a violent collapse. Even then, there is still a risk of a long recession, possibly a depression….

I cannot quite see how the German chancellor is going to extricate herself from these self-inflicted constraints….

I have yet to be convinced that the European Council is capable of reaching such a substantive agreement given its past record. Of course, it will agree on something and sell it as a comprehensive package. It always does. But the halt-life of these fake packages has been getting shorter. After the last summit, the financial markets’ enthusiasm over the ludicrous idea of a leveraged EFSF evaporated after less than 48 hours. Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.