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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Analysis: Is the euro beyond salvation? Politics not economics to decide

LONDON (Reuters)- Here's a nightmare for Europe's leaders to ponder as they prepare for yet another summit to tackle the euro zone crisis: a bond auction fails in Spain, spreading solvency worries to Italy and beyond and triggering uncontrollable bank runs that spell the single currency's end.
Is such a scenario likely? Policymakers hope not. Is it possible? They fear it might be.
What is beyond dispute is that more and more economists and academics are asking whether the euro's problems are so deep-rooted that the currency is beyond salvation.
A sculpture showing the Euro currency sign is seen in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Domanski
David Marsh, co-head of OMFIF, a forum for central banks and sovereign wealth funds, likened the 13-year-old euro to a child increasingly neglected by its parents.
"I don't really see what's going to hold the euro up. But it's difficult to tell the timing," he said.
If time is called on the euro one day, austerity fatigue could be the catalyst. Perhaps the new coalition government in Greece, now in its fifth year of recession, will throw up its hands and say ‘no more'.
Voters in countries that are more critical to the single currency's future could also tire of the belt-tightening demanded of them by the European Commission and the markets.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who still heads the country's main conservative party, has turned more skeptical since being ousted from power last November, saying on his Facebook page last week that "leaving the euro is not a blasphemy".
A new anti-euro protest group in Italy, the Five Star Movement led by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, is enjoying support of around 20 percent, according to opinion polls, putting reformist Prime Minister Mario Monti on the defensive.
Equally, creditor fatigue could tip the euro over the edge.
What if the Netherlands elects an anti-euro government in September? Or if Chancellor Angela Merkel feels ahead of her re-election campaign next year that she cannot ask German voters to keep digging into their pockets to underwrite Europe's under-performing southern periphery?
Such doubts are already bubbling to the surface.
"There's now a growing suspicion that Germany is simply not ready to accept the level of debt mutualisation necessary to restore confidence and keep the single currency project alive - or, if it is, that it will do so only at a snail's pace and on terms which are politically and economically unacceptable to Spain and Italy," said Nicholas Spiro of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London.

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