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Work and prosperity
27 April 2012

Plan B for the Eurozone – it's not what you might hope for

If you’ve been losing sleep over the Eurozone, then the last person you probably want to turn to is a leftwing Greek economist. Nevertheless, Yanis Varoufakis’s article for Eurointelligence is worthy of attention.

He begins with a pretty clearsighted view of the situation:

  • “Europe’s strategy for dealing with the Euro Crisis has been to ringfence, at first Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal, then Greece again, nowadays Spain etc. Unfortunately, a deep seated crisis, raging simultaneously in the realms of public debt, under-investment & internal imbalances and banking, makes it impossible for such ringfencing to succeed.”

He predicts that the “Eurozone will continue along a path that has already led it to an advanced stage of disintegration” – unless that is “Europe as a whole [is] ringfenced.”

He describes his scheme for doing just that as “nothing less than a New Deal for Europe” – as well he might, since it amounts to a massive, Europe-wide programme of fiscal and monetary stimulus.

Leaving aside the questionable wisdom of an almighty go-for-broke Keynesian gamble, Varoufakis's key point is that such a programme could be implemented using existing EU institutions, exercising existing powers – therefore it wouldn't count as a formal transfer union, with all the procedural and political hurdles that would entail.

Technically, he might just be right. Certainly, the EU has a long history of using technicalities to tear up its self-imposed limits. In otherwords, something like the Varoufakis plan may be a goer in the not too distant future. Instead of leading to an immediate collapse of the single currency, the failure of the Eurozone’s Plan A (austerity with bailouts) could lead instead to a Plan B (bailouts without austerity). This, in turn, would likely lead to Plan C (China, please lend us some money).

What happens after that is anyone’s guess.


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