The eurozone today is experiencing the height of a crisis that can be deadly.
It is neither the time nor the place to analyze the innumerable errors made by the Europeans all together that have led us to where we are today. This page would not be sufficient to include them all. However, it is very important to realize that the current slippery slope will, in a very short space of time, unless we act now to rectify the situation, lead to the exit of Greece from the eurozone.
This would spell disaster for this country: Living standards would collapse, savers would be wiped out, and Greece, for the next 20 years at least, would not be able to recover from the blow, unless it became subservient to a foreign power.
The Grexit would also be a disaster for Europeans, firstly because we would experience direct and indirect losses, well over the $40 billion announced everywhere, and secondly because it would demonstrate to all that joining the eurozone is not an irreversible decision, that a country can leave the euro; the aim of the game would be for financial markets to correctly guess the next target and attack it: Portugal? Spain? Italy? France? All of them, undoubtedly, country after country. For us, the cost of the mere possibility of such a disaster would be enormous: rising interest rates, recession, growing public deficit; drastic budget cuts would be needed.
This crisis is a timely reminder of something that is self-evidently the case: No single currency can expect to survive for long among countries that do not establish a joint capacity for budgetary action (e.g., tax revenues, allowing to borrow and finance necessary investments in order to compensate for differences in competitiveness among countries).
The risks of a eurozone breakup are thus enormous. This is therefore a matter of urgency. The French and Germans must not wait for a Greek proposal. They must, together, suggest a comprehensive four-part program:
- On short-term challenges, Greece's position and that of other Europeans are not so different. An agreement can be reached quickly. There is probably a need, on both sides, to make one or two technical concessions on the level of a VAT rate in the islands, or on the date for the start of the reduction of the subsidy for small pensions.
In a program like that, the Greeks will find the resources and expertise they lack to build the Greek state. The intergovernmental character of this agreement will reassure the Germans, where national parliaments shall have full power, thus contributing to a better control of possible slippage in the budgetary expenditure of borrowers. And France will find there the start of fiscal solidarity that it has been calling for for quite some time.
It will take time to implement such a program. The world is watching the Europeans, and our ability to give meaning to the European construction is what is expected of us. If we do not do it now, soon we will all face ruin, like the Greeks; ruined by our failure to take our own commitments seriously.
The moment of truth is at hand; it will reveal and differentiate the visionary men and women, courageous, clear-headed, and resolute, from the others.