“Merely Useless”

Angela Merkel fades into irrelevancy

Their compact—now called the “treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the Economic and Monetary Union”, has as its main aim the imposition of balanced-budget rules on members. This may be a useful discipline in good times. But many worry that, at a time of widespread crisis, such pro-cyclical rules risk imposing too much austerity too widely, thus darkening the spectre of recession and making it even harder to balance budgets. This may explain why leaders suddenly want to be seen talking about their plan (declaration is here in PDF) for growth and jobs, particularly in tackling the problem of youth unemployment.

Nevertheless, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who had pushed hard for the treaty, hailed it as a great success. Many others, however, dismiss the compact with so much faint praise. “It is an important distraction”, says one diplomat. “It has gone from damaging to merely useless,” says a member of the European Parliament. Even Mario Monti, these days everybody’s favourite Italian, judged the compact little more than “a decorative songbird”.

I suspect that economists who actually understand… you know… economics, should be grateful that what the EU technocrats have achieved is “merely useless,” instead of actually destructive as so much Eurozone policy has been for the last 18 months.


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