Few people have better understood the Euro crisis than George Soros. From the start Soros has seen this as a currency currency resulting from the lack of political unity and an incomplete union. In a speech over the weekend Soros summed up the problems in Europe in 2 paragraphs:
“The Maastricht Treaty was fundamentally flawed, demonstrating the fallibility of the authorities. Its main weakness was well known to its architects: it established a monetary union without a political union. The architects believed however, that when the need arose the political will could be generated to take the necessary steps towards a political union.
But the euro also had some other defects of which the architects were unaware and which are not fully understood even today. In retrospect it is now clear that the main source of trouble is that the member states of the euro have surrendered to the European Central Bank their rights to create fiat money. They did not realize what that entails – and neither did the European authorities. When the euro was introduced the regulators allowed banks to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds without setting aside any equity capital; and the central bank accepted all government bonds at its discount window on equal terms. Commercial banks found it advantageous to accumulate the bonds of the weaker euro members in order to earn a few extra basis points. That is what caused interest rates to converge which in turn caused competitiveness to diverge. Germany, struggling with the burdens of reunification, undertook structural reforms and became more competitive. Other countries enjoyed housing and consumption booms on the back of cheap credit, making them less competitive. Then came the crash of 2008 which created conditions that were far removed from those prescribed by the Maastricht Treaty. Many governments had to shift bank liabilities on to their own balance sheets and engage in massive deficit spending. These countries found themselves in the position of a third world country that had become heavily indebted in a currency that it did not control. Due to the divergence in economic performance Europe became divided between creditor and debtor countries. This is having far reaching political implications to which I will revert.”
Soros says Germany must resolve the crisis and that time is running out. He’s dead right. As I mentioned a few weeks ago Germany must make concessions here or let the entire Euro project begin to unravel. There is simply no middle ground here. It’s either a move towards fiscal union or full break-up. It’s time for all of us to stop debating why this crisis won’t end and for the leaders in Europe to actually come to a workable long-term solution. They’re holding the entire world hostage due to a lack of political unity….