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End now, the euro

End now, the euro And now, the euro\\The Economist.- 2005.- 24.- P.12-13 The European Union in crisis The euro is not in danger of breaking up-yet THE shock of the French and J- Dutch noes to the European Union's constitutional treaty will reverberate long after next week's eu summit in Brussels. It is also unnerving many in financial markets, who are now fretting gloomily about the sustain-ability of Europe's single currency, the euro. Right on cue, one minor Italian politician (openly) and, according to a German magazine, several German officials (secretly) have been musing about whether the reintroduction of national currencies might be a good idea (see page 67). Market jitters had hit the euro even before the referendums, and it has since fallen further. Yet talk of the currency's collapse, or of some countries leaving, seems off-beam. Many europhiles once argued that Europe's economic and monetary union could not survive without political union. But they were wrong: plenty of currency unions have worked with no political union (Britain and Ireland had one for over 50 years). Indeed, the evidence from eastern Germany since 1990 suggests that political union, if it means harmonising welfare benefits and wages despite big productivity gaps, can make monetary union less, not more, workable. That suggests that central European countries should not rush into the euro. Nor, contrary to some claims, is there a clear parallel between the euro area's struggling, debt-ridden economies, notably Italy, and Argentina before it was forced off its strict convertibility link to the dollar in 2001-02. Italy is in economic difficulties, and its debt is high-but its problems were not caused by the euro, and any temptation Italians may feel to follow Argentina's example should be tempered not just by the practical difficulties but also by looking at that country's grim experience since its default and devaluation. Italy and other stuttering economies might in fact now benefit from a period of euro weakness, as the euro's strength had been denting their exports. And if bond markets belatedly start to differentiate between more and less creditworthy euro members, that can only be helpful in importing more fiscal discipline. Yet if talk of the euro's collapse or of an early exit by some members is mistaken, it would equally be wrong to assume that all is well with the currency's management. Because the euro necessarily abolished national interest-rate and exchange-rate policies, it behoved an independent European Central Bank to operate a collective monetary policy that was both responsive and flexible. In fact the ecb has been unduly rigid, even puritanical, compared with, say, America's Federal Reserve. Recently the rich-country oecd, normally highly reticent in commenting on such matters, declared that the case for monetary easing in the euro area was "rather compelling". If the ecb remains unresponsive, it risks increasing the markets' talk of a currency in crisis. The euro has also suffered from misconceived efforts to restrict countries' fiscal freedom. The recent emasculation of the stability and growth pact, which sought to limit euro members' budget deficits to 3% of gdp on pain of swingeing fines, is welcome. Even without the pact, countries such as Italy would have had only limited fiscal freedom, because of the scale of their debts; but Germany and France might have benefited over the past few years from a larger dose of fiscal expansion. Physicians, heal yourselves Yet by far the biggest blame for the euro area's problems, and thus for the travails of the currency, lies with governments' failure to reform their economies. When the euro was created, it was clear that its membership did not make up what economists call an optimal currency area (though nor, in many ways, does the United States). That made it essential for national governments to take measures to make the euro area more optimal-notably by fostering greater labour mobility and making labour and product markets more flexible. The great hope of enthusiasts for Europe's single currency, as for its single market, was that it would unleash pressures that would force its members to reform their sclerotic economies to make them more flexible and competitive. The single market and the euro duly unleashed such pressures: but the core euro countries, especially France, Germany and Italy, have responded by resisting the reforms they made necessary. If euro-area governments now feel the need to restore confidence in their currency, as in the broader European project, they must find the courage to follow that course of economic reform. If they do not, the euro really could head into crisis— which is why reform remains more crucial to the eu's future than any amount of navel-gazing on the constitution. Европейский Союз в критическом состоянии (Курсу евро не грозит спад - пока) Прозвучало шоковое "нет" проекту Конституции Европейского Союза со стороны Франции и Голландии. Эта новость до сих пор тревожит финансовых дилеров, беспокоящихся за стабильность единой европейской валюты, евро. Курс евро немного снизился еще до референдумов, но все-таки разговоры о "падении" евро и выходе некоторых стран из евросоюза, кажутся надуманными. Многие приверженцы евросоюза уже заявляли о том, что экономический и валютный союз в Европе не выживет без политического объединения. Но они ошибались: множество существующих союзов функционируют без политического слияния (опыту Британии и Ирландии 50 лет, пример Восточной Германии). Таким образом, центрально-европейские страны не особо должны спешить в ЕС. Но все же говорить о крахе евро или скором выходе некоторых членов ЕС ошибочно, также как и о том, что с валютным менеджментом все в порядке. К тому же, ЕС пожинает плоды ошибочных попыток ограничить фискальную свободу стран-членов: снижение дефицита бюджета этих стран до 3% ВВП за счет плавающих тарифов штрафов влечет неодинаковые последствия для каждого. Энтузиасты единой экономической валюты надеются, что общий рынок сделает экономику стран-участниц более гибкой и конкурентоспособной. Однако, основополагающие страны - Франция, Германия, Италия - пока противостоят необходимым реформам в Союзе.

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