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Dan White: EU leaders hoped crisis would go away, instead we face deeper recession

HOW could things have come to this? It was just two weeks ago that Europe's leaders declared, if not "peace in our time", then at least some sort of an end to the eurozone crisis.

What a difference a fortnight makes.

The only difference between the July 2011 deal and all of the previous deals that were supposed to "fix" the eurozone crisis is the speed with which this one has fallen apart.


While most of the previous eurozone deals bought Europe's leaders a few months respite before the next phase of the crisis struck, the ink was barely dry on the July 21 agreement before the markets concluded the eurozone wasn't serious about sorting out its problems.

Like gangrene through a limb, the eurozone crisis has gradually been spreading from the periphery to the centre.

What started out as a problem in Ireland, Greece and Portugal spread to Spain and Italy, threatening the survival of the entire eurozone.

Now the crisis has gone global with the US and Asian markets experiencing near-record daily falls as investors despair of Europe's inability to solve this.

At every stage of the crisis, ever since the late Brian Lenihan was forced to unilaterally guarantee the deposits and bonds of the Irish-owned banks in September 2008, Europe's leaders have been playing catch-up.

Instead of tackling the deep structural flaws that lie at the heart of the single currency, Europe's leaders have instead applied a series of uncoordinated ad hoc measures and hoped that the crisis would go away.

It is the equivalent of applying a sticking plaster to a gaping wound and imagining that the patient would recover.


Europe's leaders may have fooled themselves but they aren't fooling anyone else.

The markets, utterly unsentimental, and motivated solely by money, have concluded that the single currency project is the latter-day emperor's new clothes.

After prancing around in the altogether for over a decade, investors are now playing the role of the little boy forcefully pointing out that the emperor, i.e. the euro, is a bit lacking in the clothing department.

While transnational currency unions and fixed exchange regimes have been relatively common, none of them has survived once the going got tough.

One by one the gold standard, the Latin currency union, the sterling area and the pre-euro ERM all fell apart.

Why should the euro be any different?

Without full fiscal as well as monetary union it won't.

Translated into plain English this means unless Europe's leaders agree to the creation of a common eurozone finance ministry with a single treasury and the power to dictate public spending and taxation levels, then the euro is doomed.

So what can us mere mortals expect next?

The good news is that the crisis has forced the ECB to abandon its lunatic plans to increase interest rates even further.

The bad news is that falls in world financial markets have inflicted even further damage on private pension funds and almost certainly signal a new, even more severe phase of the great recession.