With a mounting crisis in the eurozone, heads of government met in an emergency meeting in Brussels on 21 July.
The task was a massive one: how to tackle Greece’s growing debt crisis and stave off default; how to protect other highly indebted countries which have already had to seek emergency bailouts, namely Ireland and Portugal, from falling market confidence and thus rising interest rates, thereby making their debts harder to service; how to prevent speculative pressures extending like a contagion to other highly indebted countries, such as Spain and Italy; how to prevent speculation against the euro and even to prevent its break-up; how to reduce the size of budget deficits at a time of low growth without jeopardising that growth. A problem is that Greece has already adopted the required austerity measures for it to receive a second bailout from the EU agreed at the end of June, and yet its debt burden is likely to rise as growth remains negative.
Eurozone leaders recognised that the stakes were high. Failure could see contagion spread, interest rates soar and perhaps one or more countries leaving the euro. No agreement was not an option. As it turned out, the agreement was more comprehensive than most commentators had expected. Markets reacted positively. Stock markets in Europe and around the world rose and the euro strengthened.
So what was the agreement? Has it solved the Greek and eurozone crises? Will it prevent contagion? Or has it merely put the problem on hold for the time being? Will more fundamental measures have to be put in place, such as much fuller fiscal union, if the eurozone is to function as an effective single currency area? The following is a selection of the hundreds of articles worldwide that have reported on the summit and the agreement.
Greece thrown lifeline by eurozone leaders BBC News, Chris Morris (22/7/11)
A Marshall plan with ‘haircuts’: The draft agreement Guardian, Chris Morris (21/7/11)
Banks forced to share pain of bailout for Greece Independent, Sean O’Grady and Vanessa Mock (22/7/11)
EU leaders agree €109bn Greek bail-out Financial Times, Peter Spiegel, Quentin Peel, Patrick Jenkins and Richard Milne (21/7/11)
Greece to default as eurozone agrees €159bn bailout The Telegraph, Louise Armitstead and Bruno Waterfield (21/7/11)
Europe steps up to the plate The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (21/7/11)
Greek bailout boosts global markets Guardian, Julia Kollewe, Ian Traynor and Lisa O’Carroll (22/7/11)
Greek bailout deal: What the experts say Guardian (22/7/11)
Bailed out – again. Eurozone throws Greece €109bn lifeline Guardian, Ian Traynor (22/7/11)
New package for Greece must match last year’s if it is to stave off default Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Maiden (22/7/11)
Russian or Belgian roulette? The Economist, Charlemagne’s notebook (21/7/11)
Saving the euro: A bit of breathing space The Economist, Charlemagne’s notebook (22/7/11)
Europe’s ‘safe haven’: corporate bonds Financial Times, Demetrio Salorio (21/7/11)
Summit that saved the euro? Financial Times, John Authers and Vincent Boland (21/7/11)
Greece aid package boosts stock markets BBC News (22/7/11)
Q&A: Greek debt crisis BBC News (22/7/11)
Timeline: The unfolding eurozone crisis BBC News (22/7/11)
Eurozone summit: It may be a solution, but doubts remain Guardian, Larry Elliott (21/7/11)
German taxpayers are being asked to socialise Europe’s debts The Telegraph, Jeremy Warner (22/7/11)
The eurozone is not a nation state Financial Times blogs, Gavyn Davies (20/7/11)
One step back from the abyss BBC News blogs, Stephanie Flanders (22/7/11)
For long-term gain, the EU will have to share the pain Independent, Sean O’Grady (22/7/11)
Greek debt deal ‘not the last word’ BBC Today Progrgamme, Stephanie Flanders and Sir John Gieve (22/7/11)
- Outline the measures agreed at the eurozone heads of government summit on 21 July.
- Explain what is meant by a ‘haircut’ in the context of debts. What types of haircut were agreed at the summit?
- How big a reduction in Greece’s debt stock will result from the deal? Why may it not be enough?
- Explain how the European Financial Stability Facility (ESFS) works? How will this change as a result of the agreement?
- What vulnerabilities remain in the eurozone?
- What are the arguments for closer fiscal union in the eurozone? Is more required than merely a return to the Stability and Growth Pact?
As the news item, A Greek tragedy reported, the level of debt in Greece and also in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy, has caused worries, not just for their creditors, but also for the whole eurozone. Here we give you the opportunity to listen to a podcast from the Guardian in which some of the paper’s main economic columnists, along with Observer commentator, William Keegan, discuss the effects of this debt on the euro. To quote the introduction to the podcast:
“In Brussels, European leaders have pledged ‘determined and co-ordinated’ action to help Greece – they won’t let it fail. Our Europe editor Ian Traynor says the announcement of a deal was designed to keep the markets happy.
But leaders of wealthier euro nations like Germany are hoping they won’t have to ask their voters to bail Greece out. Kate Connolly, our Berlin correspondent, explains why Germans are so reluctant to provide financial assistance.
It’s being seen as a defining moment for the euro. Economics editor Larry Elliott says not signing Britain up to the single currency was the best decision Gordon Brown ever made.”
The debt crisis facing the Euro Guardian daily podcast (12/2/10)
- To what extent is Greece’s debt a problem for the whole eurozone?
- Consider the arguments for and against bailing Greece out (a) by stronger eurozone countries, such as Germany and France; (b) by the IMF.
- What support for Greece would minimise the problem of moral hazard?
- How would you set about establishing whether the current eurozone is an optimal currency area?
- How do the current problems of debt affect the arguments about whether Britain should adopt the euro?
With the majority of developed countries now moving out of recession, many people will think the worst is over. But for some countries and some people, there may be worse to come. The single currency in the eurozone was introduced in 1999 and in December 2009, the eurozone saw its highest level of unemployment at 10%. There are now 23 million people unemployed across the 16 countries that make up the eurozone and many of those people reside in Spain, where unemployment has reached a 12-year high of 18.8% and is even expected to reach 20%.
Interest rates in the eurozone and in the UK have been maintained at 1% and 0.5% respectively, and inflation has seen a rise in both places. Whilst in the eurozone inflation remains well below the inflation target, in the UK there has been a rapid rise to 2.9% to December 2009 (see Too much of a push from costs but no pull from demand)
While Spain is suffering from mass unemployment, Greece is struggling with the burden of a huge budget deficit. The former European Central Bank Chief Economist, Otmar Issing, has said that any bailout of Greece would severely damage the Monetary Union and “The Greek disease will spread”. With concern that Greece will not be able to service its debt, there is speculation that the country will be forced out of the currency bloc. However, the chair of the single currency area’s finance ministers said that Greece will not leave the eurozone and does not believe that a state of bankruptcy exists.
So, what’s behind rising unemployment, rising inflation and rising budget deficits and how are they likely to affect the eurozone’s recovery?
Eurozone inflation rises to 0.9% BBC News (15/1/10)
Unemployment sector remains beat in Eurozone pressuring price levels FX Street (29/1/10)
greek bailout would hurt Eurozone – Germany’s Issing Reuters (29/1/10)
Eurozone unemployment rate hits 10% BBC News (29/1/10)
Greece will not go bust or leave Eurozone Reuters, Michele Sinner (27/1/10)
Eurozone unemployment hits 10% AFP (29/1/10)
New rise in German job loss total BBC News (28/1/10)
Spain unemployment nears 12 year high Interactive Investor (29/1/10)
- How do we define unemployment? What type of unemployment is being experienced in the eurozone?
- Why do you think unemployment levels have risen in the eurozone and in Spain in particular? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- What are the costs of unemployment for (a) the individual (b) governments and (c) society?
- What explanation can be given for rising levels of both unemployment and inflation?
- Inflation in the eurozone increased to 0.9%. What are the factors behind this? Illustrate the effects on a diagram.
- Greece’s forecast budget deficit for 2009 is 12.7% of GDP, but Greece has said it will reduce it to 8.7% of GDP. How does the Greek government intend to do this and what are the likely problems it will face?
- Why could bailing out Greece hurt the eurozone?
As well as old theorists being brought out to help frame the financial crisis in a new context, old theories and policies seem to be getting a new airing as well. In the articles below various commentators consider whether joining the euro may offer a solution to our economic situation.
How the euro is gaining currency Guardian (6/10/08)
Contagion could fracture the eurozone Guardian (6/10/08)
Dithering Britain needs its own plan and it may hinge on joining the euro Guardian (1/10/08)
||Explain how interest rates are set in the eurozone. To what extent might this act as a constraint on policy making in times of economic downturn?
||Discuss the arguments for and against the UK joining the euro.
||Assess reasons why joining the euro may be more appropriate for the UK now than a decade ago.