Will the EU’s beloved euro project survive?
With so much uncertainty currently facing the European single currency, comparisons with this year’s Tour de France seem fitting. Like the world’s toughest cycling race, which has just entered the Alpine stages, Europe’s leaders also have huge mountains to climb as they gather in Brussels.
Having already battled difficult hurdles, they arguably come to the Belgian capital with tired legs. This time, however, it’s not just Greece which is visibly at stake. There’s also the future of the euro and the issue of avoiding a full blown banking crisis. Some observers fear if they fail to send out the right message to the world’s markets, the whole European peloton could end up falling off the cliff.
Despite that pressure, Europe’s leaders continue to appear divided. Hamstrung by public opinion back home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains reluctant to spend any more money to prop up Europe’s stragglers.
This time, however, it’s not just Greece, Portugal and Ireland which could end up crashing. Spain and Italy have suddenly caught the attention of nervous investors. The worry is, if either Madrid or Rome were to default, it would result in the whole global financial system spiralling out of control.
In a bid to avoid a potentially massive pile up, Berlin and Paris have insisted that resolving the crisis remains a long-term race and Thursday’s gruelling summit will just be one stage among many others. The IMF, however, seems less patient, telling Europe’s leaders, in short , to get a move on.
The widespread consensus is that the road will not be easy, with Thursday’s talks being perhaps the equivalent of climbing Alpe d’Huez, Tourmalet and Galibier on the same day. The problems of the world financial markets, together with the possibility of a US default, also make the road especially slippery.
Paul Hackett & Rafa Cereceda