Europe on the rack - Why the euro is breaking the European dream

by Economist
June 30, 2012

The longer the euro area's debt crisis drags on, the more it resembles an instrument of economic torture. Like the medieval rack, every turn of the crisis tears Europe further apart. This week Cyprus announced it would seek a bail-out. Spain formally asked for money to recapitalise its banks. The Greek limb is close to being ripped off. How long can the Italian one hold?

Monetary union was meant to be a blessing. The euro's founders dreamed that it would end chronic and divisive currency crises, promote growth and multiply Europe's economic power. After the creation of the single market, the euro was the next step toward political union.

For decades European integration worked. Through trade and regional aid, poorer members joining the club quickly started catching up with rich ones. But the euro has now set the “convergence machine” in reverse. Parts of southern Europe are in depression and must pay high interest rates, while Germany enjoys record low borrowing costs. The debtors plead for mercy, but the creditors think they must suffer for their sins.

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