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German elections to open new season of Eurocrisis show

category international | economy | opinion / analysis author Freitag September 27, 2013 18:38author by Paul Bowman - Workers Solidarity Movement - WSM Report this post to the editors

Like the fading sun of the Summer, there is now little time left to enjoy the last days of Eurostasis we have been enveloped in of late. The relative calm that descended on the Eurocrisis, with the brief exception of the Cyrpus panic in March, is coming to an end with the German elections this coming Sunday.


German elections to open new season of Eurocrisis show


Like the fading sun of the Summer, there is now little time left to enjoy the last days of Eurostasis we have been enveloped in of late. The relative calm that descended on the Eurocrisis, with the brief exception of the Cyrpus panic in March, is coming to an end with the German elections this coming Sunday.

Since September last year, when the ECB's head Mario Draghi finally stepped in with a programme of unlimited buying of bonds from distressed countries like Spain and Italy, the Eurocrisis has been put into stasis awaiting the German elections of this month.

The tying of the rhythym of the ups and downs of the Eurocrisis to the German electoral calendar is nothing new. Back in 2010 when the Greek insolvency crisis first emerged, the initial size of the problem in March of that year, was estimated at 30-40 billion euros. But the bailout resolution had to wait until an important state legislature election in Nord-Rhein Westfalia later that year in May. By the time the Greek crisis had been left to twist in the wind for two months, the bailout bill had climbed to 110 bn. Subsequent episodes in the crisis, including Cyprus, have also had to be spun out while waiting for key German elections to be over. But all of these have been local State affairs, still important in Germany's federal composition, but no comparison to this Sunday's national poll.

Once the dust has settled and the necessary coalition has been clinched, Merkel's new government can get back to the business of cranking up the crisis. There's the next Greek bailout to get sorted, but the crisis itself is a useful tool from the German perspective. First of all it creates a big stick to beat recalcitrant peripherals into instituting more austerity and more privatisation. These measures may be economically destructive locally in the periphery, but the Eurocrisis panic has a nice way of filling German state coffers with ultra-cheap money as investors react with a "flight to safety" by liquidating peripheral investments in favour of German bonds. In fact this handy "by-product" of the crisis led to German bonds being pushed into yields that were negative, in real terms (i.e. lower than inflation), before they reluctantly decided in September last year, to put the Spanish phase of the crisis to bed, so as to soothe German voters before this election. In other words Germany was demanding that investors pay them for the privilege of lending them money. Nice gig if you can get it. But that seductive effect of keeping the Eurocrisis irons in the fire is really only a bonus compared to the main utility of providing a hammer to forge the Eurozone into the desired neoliberal shape.

That most reliable of leading indicator to the next episode in the Eurocrisis - commentators announcing in the financial and mainstream press that the crisis is finally over - has already started to happen in the last few weeks. Alongside, it should be said, other forecasters looking worriedly about all the issues that have been effectively parked until Sunday's election. And those issues are many. The Spanish banking system is still basically insolvent. The promises of banking union given at the height of the Spanish banking panic last year, have melted away since calm was restored, under German opposition. The complex inter-tangled web of insanely over-leveraged derivatives that makes every local failure potentially a systemic crisis is still largely untamed. The so-called "structural reforms" that the optimists refer to as having "fixed" the Eurozone are either trivial fiddling around the margins or just plain non-existent.

Media commentators have called the current German election the most boring in history. Their chagrin is entirely manufactured as normal service will soon be resumed as they get back to hyperventilating over the coming episodes in the new Autumn season of the Eurocrisis reality TV show. Coming to a 24-hour news channel near you soon.

Paul Bowman

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