The euro crisis returns

A flare-up of the eurozone crisis could be on the cards as Greece's prime minister fights to win over MPs.

"There is a dismal symmetry," says The Economist, "in seeing the euro crisis flare up again" five years after it began and in the same place, Greece.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has called anearly presidential election.If he can't get 60% ofMPs to approve hischoice in three rounds of voting, culminating on29 December, he will have to call a general election.

And he may well struggle to get enough votes due to defections triggered by the austerity imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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If there is an election, the likely winner is left-wing populist party Syriza, which seems determined to water down austerity and renegotiate Greece's debt. This will create "a tricky choice",says Buttonwood in The Economist.

If Syriza's demands are unreasonable, the rest of Europe could be tempted to eject Greece from the eurozone. The danger then is that markets will start to worry that other countries might leave, which drives up borrowing costs for other struggling countries Italy's debt pile in particular looks unsustainable.

But if policymakers reach a deal with Greece, other nations will demand similar concessions. That would then undermine the EU's credibility and make it harder for it to insist on the fiscal reforms southern Europe needs to boostlong-term growth.

In the longer term, more political turmoil in the eurozone is on the cards. Ongoing stagnation and the descent into deflation will make debt loads even heavier; German opposition may keep delaying quantitative easing (QE); and structural reform is agonisingly slow. All this means a sudden growth spurt is unlikely, and popular resistance to austerity is growing.

"The really significant development" of the past three years, says Roger Bootle in The Daily Telegraph, "has been the growth of political opposition to the euro."

In Italy, all three main opposition parties are anti-euro. Spain, Portugal, and Italy are due to hold elections too next year and anti-euro populists are set to do well, says In France, the anti-euro National Front has topped an opinion poll for the first time.

In short, the odds of a messy collapse of the eurozone have risen. "The economics of this vanity project have been dodgy all along," notes Bootle. "Now the political foundations have started to shake."

Andrew Van Sickle

Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.

After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.

His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.

Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.