Barrie Maguire

How to Save the Euro

The euro zone was created on two assumptions: member countries would adhere to strict deficit and debt limits, and those who violated the limits would not be bailed out. Now that the Greek crisis has proved both assumptions invalid, the only hope for imposing market discipline throughout the euro zone is the creation of a European Monetary Fund.

BRUSSELS – The European Union is facing a constitutional moment. The founders of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) warned even before the euro’s birth that fiscal profligacy would constitute a danger to the common currency’s stability. Nevertheless, the euro-zone’s member countries insisted on maintaining their full sovereignty in this area.

The solution to this conundrum was supposed to have been the Stability and Growth Pact, working in tandem with the so-called “no bailout” clause in the Maastricht Treaty. The latter was intended to impose market discipline, and the former, to preserve the stability of public finances by fixing a strict limit on the size of national budget deficits.

Both proved futile. The Stability and Growth Pact clearly did not prevent “excessive” deficits, and the no-bailout clause failed its first test when European leaders, facing the Greek crisis, solemnly declared on February 11 that euro-zone members would “take determined and coordinated action, if needed, to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole.”

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