Παρασκευή, 11 Μαΐου 2012

Hate Europe, Love the Euro

Old one drachma coins.


LONDON — The BBC ran an intriguingdocumentary on Greece’s financial crisis this week, hosted by Michael Portillo, a former minister under Margaret Thatcher and a leading euro-skeptic.
During his travels through Greece, Mr. Portillo offered each of his interviewees the choice of a €20 bill and an alternative one denominated in defunct drachmas. To a man, and woman, they all reached for the euros.
The country’s European partners may not be too popular among Greeks these days but, if Mr. Portillo’s mini-experiment is anything to go by, the European currency still is.
Whether they get to keep it will likely depend on whether their politicians seize the last of several chances on Friday to cobble together a coalition government out of the inconclusive results of Sunday’s general election.
After a Friday morning meeting with Evangelos Venizelos, the Socialist leader, Antonis Samaras, the leader of the Conservative Party and a potential coalition partner, said Greece must remain within the euro zone.
“The only term we set is to secure Greece’s continued presence in the euro area,” Mr. Samaras told state TV. “It would be suicide to isolate Greece now that conditions are changing in Europe,” Bloomberg News quoted him as saying.
More meetings among politicians were scheduled for later in the day and into the evening.
Failure to form a government would prompt new elections, in which the anti-austerity Radical Left Movement of Alexis Tsipras is currently forecast to increase its share of the vote to become the largest party in Parliament.
Mr. Tsipras shares the twin aspirations expressed by many Greeks in Mr. Portillo’s broadcast — keep the euro but ease the austerity measures being imposed on Athens by its European partners.
No deal, says Germany, which is putting intense pressure on Greek politicians to reach a coalition deal that would include acceptance of conditions for further bailout loans.
Germany’s foreign minister kept up the pressure on Greece on Friday, saying there could be no more payments of aid unless Athens enacted reforms it has agreed with its international partners.
“We want to help Greece and we will help Greece,” Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, told the German Parliament. “But Greece has to want to be helped. If they deviate from the agreed reform path, then the payment of further tranches of aid is not possible.”
A former radical student leader, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, meanwhile, urged Europe to ease the pressure on Greece or risk provoking a military takeover. Mr. Cohn-Bendit, a member of the European Parliament with the the Green alliance, raised the specter of a rerun of the Colonels’ coup of 1967 in an interview with Le Monde.
“They must be given some sign of hope,” he said. “If you leave the Greeks to sort themselves out, there’s a risk of a coup d’état.”
Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, said in an interview published Friday that the 17-nation euro zone could withstand Greece’s withdrawal from the single currency. “Europe won’t sink that easily,” he told the Rheinische Post.
A move back to the drachma could, however, prove to be a nightmare for the banking sector, which is reported to be preparing contingency plans.
Reuters reported from London on Thursday that some banks had never erased the old Greek currency from their systems and “would be ready at the flick of a switch” if Greece brought back national banknotes and coins.
But the report also noted that, if Greece forced an exchange rate of, for example, one euro to one new drachma, it could impose huge losses on foreign banks because such a rate would not be sustainable on the markets.

Herald Tribune

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