The EU’s Horrible Honeymoon
[...] At this point Europe is not even halfway its 100-day political “honeymoon” since the Treaty of Lisbon, which transformed the EU into a state in its own right, came into force. So far the honeymoon has been a nightmare. Since the beginning of the year, the EU’s currency, the euro, is on the brink of collapse; Greece has been placed under EU financial supervision to prevent it from going bankrupt. Now U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that he will not attend next May’s EU summit in Madrid. It was to have been Obama’s first visit to post-Lisbon Europe – the consecration of the new political order.
Although Obama’s snub hurts Europe’s pride, the euro’s monetary problems are far more serious. They not only affect Europe’s finances and economy, but may also tear down the political EU framework. When the European Commission placed Athens under EU supervision last week, Greece was almost bankrupt. Brussels has forced the Greek government to present a plan to drastically reduce its budget deficit from 13% to 3% by the end of 2012. The plan will cost the Greeks blood, sweat and tears. It includes a freeze on civil service wages and the postponement of the retirement age. Brussels has invoked new EU powers under Article 121 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allow it to reshape the structure of Greece’s pensions, healthcare, labor market and private commerce.
“The envisaged correction of the deficit is feasible but subject to risks,” says EU Commission President Barroso – an understatement. The Commission fears a backlash from the Greek unions, who might organize strikes and bring down the Greek government. Trade unions in other countries are nervous, too. They warn that it is unacceptable that the European Commission intervenes in setting national wages.
The EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia declared that the Greek targets will be enforced strongly and that, if necessary, even more draconian measures will be taken. “Every time we see or perceive slippages, we will ask for additional measures to correct these slippages. Never before have we established so detailed and tough a system of surveillance,” Almunia said. He has demanded quarterly updates on progress towards reduction targets, as well as a first report on 16 March. “This is the first time,” he said, “we have established such an intense and quasi-permanent system of monitoring.”
Much is at stake. In the coming weeks, the strength of the euro will depend on whether the markets believe that the government in Athens is strong enough to implement the reforms or trust that the other eurozone countries will bail out the Greeks. This year the eurozone governments have already borrowed a record €110bn from the markets, thereby forcing up the cost of borrowing for countries with the weakest public finances, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy.
Even if the situation in Greece can be stabilized, the EU’s nightmare is far from over. The next eurozone dominos that might fall are Portugal and Spain. Portugal’s deficit reached 9.3% of GDP last year, Spain’s 11.4%. [...]
The article describes how there is a great deal of resistance to the idea of "bailing out" Greece, and that Greece may even be "excluded from the Eurozone" before a bailout were allowed to happen, although such an exclusion would contravene the laws of the EU.
But worse still, is the threat of Spain's financial collapse. It has the fourth largest economy in the EU. If it fails, it will be devastating for the EU.