The Greek Dilemma: Three Thorny Paths to Saving the Euro

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Greece may soon face bankruptcy, but what would happen after that? If governments and central banks want to preserve the euro, they might have to take some very risky steps -- each with its own potential dangers. Europe has begun searching for the lesser of several evils.

Athens and the Acropolis: If Greece goes bankrupt, market fears will likely be exascerbated. Zoom
DPA

Athens and the Acropolis: If Greece goes bankrupt, market fears will likely be exascerbated.

Will Greece obtain fresh aid or slide into bankruptcy? Those will be the fundamental issues at stake when Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras travels to France and Germany this week for meetings with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even though the talks won't result in official decisions, the two most important politicians in the euro zone will know after these meetings just what they can still expect from Greece -- and they will draw the necessary conclusions.

For the currency union as a whole, however, the Greek tragedy itself is merely a prelude to the real battle to save the euro. If Greece actually did go bankrupt or left the currency union, the main priority for the rest of the bloc would be to use every means possible to prevent a further dissolution of the euro zone -- even if these means have some quite problematic aspects.

The key issue will be to prevent the remaining crisis countries from suffering the same fate as Greece. The main priority will be to prevent the yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds from rising any further. Spain already has to pay very high risk premiums compared with Germany. For 10-year German government bonds, investors last week demanded an interest rate of about 1.4 percent. For Spanish bonds, the rate was 6.7 percent.

As a result, Spanish interest rate payments are rising even though the government is doing all it can to cut spending. That is making it even harder for Spain to break out of the vicious circle of debt, austerity and recession.

Experts fear that if Greece becomes insolvent, investors will panic and demand higher interest rates from Spain or Italy. That would force the two countries to seek external aid.

Currently, discussions are focusing on three possible ways to halt the dramatic rises in interest rates for sovereign bonds:

• the massive purchase of sovereign bonds by the European Central Bank (ECB) to cap the yields

• providing unlimited firepower for the permanent euro bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), by providing it with a banking license that would, de facto, give the institution the ability to print money

• introducing common euro-zone debt issuance, so-called euro bonds

All three proposals have one thing in common: They've never been attempted before and it's almost impossible to foresee what consequences they could have. With each proposal, experts are warning of potentially dangerous side effects. But the euro-zone countries and central banks may have to opt for one of them -- and choose the lesser of three evils.

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1. Doctors symptom therapy.
yiannaki 08/21/2012
All these pathes are financial therapies on symptom level concerning a social crisis. They won't hold or work. The countries in problem need time to become euro-proof. So give them their own devaluated seuro and time to do their job. So, we better stop to implement therapies the doctors do like. Because they don't work and some patients are already (getting) terminal !
2. Is Spiegel an economical newspaper?
EPSILONTHEGREAT 08/22/2012
SPIEGEL, recently, became the most favour supporter of these foreseeen a Greek bankruptcy.Its columnists imagine!!and calculating everything in the case of a such event.By the time they became so -unrealistic-because of their wishes. SPIEGEL,should start to investigate and other figures!!!exempt amounts of EURO to be spend by Germany in such a "wishfull" case".Can its expert columnists count the political,the geostratical costs for the area and particularly EU members if such a case of bunkruptcy be a fact?Just to remind them that North Korea is not a big economy or country.People under certain circustances can be easily guided to forget what they know about a proper social govern rules.!!I am therefore request ,particularly Germnan jurnalists, to be care of what they wish.
3. The New Euro Zone
sbanicki 08/25/2012
---Quote (Originally by sysop)--- Greece may soon face bankruptcy, but what would happen after that? If governments and central banks want to preserve the euro, they might have to take some very risky steps -- each with its own potential dangers. Europe has begun searching for the lesser of several evils. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,851268,00.html ---End Quote--- I am a pessimist when it come to believing the euro can be saved because of the political difficulties. The only chance I see of creating a United State of Europe is by starting small and selective. The countries of Germany, France, Italy, Spain have a total population of 250 million. This would be a good start and this is where the focus should be. If the above union and be pulled off it would surely force other countries to consider merging. Otherwise, I am back to my intoxicated optimist theory. http://www.freeourfreemarkets.org/2012/07/united-state-of-europe.html
4. Neuro
marcschi 08/27/2012
I hold little confidence in the capabilities of European institutions to take us out of this crisis. They are too influenced by forces from within the EU that drive towards more union and less democracy against the will of a majority of the citizens. And a significant percentage of EU members (Spain, Italy, Greece and to a lesser degree Portugal, Ireland, perhaps even France), have a vested interested in funding their bankrupt economies with cheap money. It will only lead to more irresponsibility on their part. I believe in one way forward: the creation of the Neuro. A Euro consisting of a group of countries with similar ideas about fiscal responsibility and aligned economies. In addition: less European Union. The EU has only one interest: bigger, more power. As such it poses an already apparent threat to European democracies. This can only get worse. The only way forward is to go back to the original ideas of the EU: work together were we can, harmonize as much as possible but leave local policies to local countries. No further monetary or political integration. We are already seeing many extreme left and right parties coming up feeding on democratic gap and economic crisis. People are not stupid. And they are voting for the parties that say: less Europe. Let's make this the way of moderation in stead of extremism.
5. Lender resistence
sbanicki 08/28/2012
I understand what you are saying; however, the lenders will not make the same mistake twice.They may make a loan to Greece; however the terms terms will be underwritten only looking a Greece. The same is true with all the other countries. It will not work without political unification. http://www.freeourfreemarkets.org/2012/06/euro-short-term-solutions.html
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