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The Decline and Fall of the Euro?

BRUSSELS – Great empires rarely succumb to outside attacks. But they often crumble under the weight of internal dissent. This vulnerability seems to apply to the eurozone as well.

Key macroeconomic indicators do not suggest any problem for the eurozone as a whole. On the contrary, it has a balanced current account, which means that it has enough resources to solve its own public-finance problems. In this respect, the eurozone compares favorably with other large currency areas, such as the United States or, closer to home, the United Kingdom, which run external deficits and thus depend on continuing inflows of capital. 

In terms of fiscal policy, too, the eurozone average is comparatively strong. It has a much lower fiscal deficit than the US (4% of GDP for the eurozone, compared to almost 10% for the US).

Debasement of the currency is another sign of weakness that often precedes decline and breakup. But, again, this is not the case for the eurozone, where the inflation rate remains low – and below that of the US and the UK. Moreover, there is no significant danger of an increase, as wage demands remain depressed and the European Central Bank will face little pressure to finance deficits, which are low and projected to disappear over the next few years. Refinancing government debt is not inflationary, as it creates no new purchasing power. The ECB is merely a “central counterparty” between risk-averse German savers and the Italian government.