Qu’attend l’Europe ?

PITTSBURGH – Lors de sa récente visite en Grèce, le président français François Hollande a déclaré qu’il en était fini du déclin de l’Europe, encourageant les entreprises françaises à investir en Grèce. Une recommandation peu avisée. En effet, si les coûts de production français sont élevés, ces coûts le sont encore plus en Grèce. Malgré l’ampleur du déclin du PIB réel grec (de même qu’italien et espagnol) depuis 2007, les efforts d’ajustement sont loin d’avoir abouti.

En réalité, il est difficile de trouver partisan de l’analyse d’Hollande ailleurs en Europe. Avant les dernières élections italiennes, les marchés financiers ont montré un certain nombre de signes d’optimisme, encouragés par la politique de la Banque centrale européenne consistant à garantir la dette souveraine des États membres de la zone euro, à étendre son bilan, et à abaisser les taux d’intérêt. Les détenteurs d’obligations y gagnent lorsque les taux d’intérêt baissent. Le chômage continue cependant d’augmenter dans les pays du Sud les plus lourdement endettés, et leur production demeure à la traîne derrière l’Allemagne et les autres pays d’Europe du Nord.

La raison principale de ce retard ne réside pas simplement dans la faiblesse de la demande ou l’importance des dettes. Il existe en effet une différence significative entre les coûts unitaires du travail – à savoir les salaires réels ajustés à la productivité – en Allemagne par rapport aux pays lourdement endettés de l’Europe du Sud. Lorsque la crise est apparue, les coûts de production en Grèce étaient environ supérieurs de 30% à ceux de l’Allemagne, ce qui explique pourquoi la Grèce exportait peu et importait beaucoup. Les coûts de production dans les autres pays lourdement endettés étaient quant à eux 20 à 25% plus élevés que ceux de l’Allemagne.

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