The political significance of Moody’s downgrade
The last week could have been lethal for Europe’s future. The collapse of the Italian and Spanish stock exchange, toghether with the downgrade (from “stable” to “negative”) of Germany’s outlook decided by the American rating agency Moody’s are a powerful warning to the European Union and Germany.
In future German Bundesanleihen (government bonds) could not be considered as secure as they were during the last turbulents months, in which they have been seen by the investors as a safe shore inside the economic storm that hit the European nations. This is the silent message that Moody’s decision sent to the German establishment. On the other hand Wolfgang Schäuble too, the Minister of finance in Merkel’s government, has made clear in differents occasions that an eventual collapse of Euro and a deepen of the government debt’s crisis will mightly afflict Germany’s economy.
Compared to the scenario that we’ve seen during the last months, the most recent one is different in a sense at least: the sellings are now hitting not only the markets of specific nations (even though they were focused especially on Italy and Spain), but also the Eurozone in general. The cause of this phenomenon has to be investigated beyond the financial speculation, which however plays a part in the game. The main reason that’s crushing Europe’s financial system is the loss of confidence among the international investors, who are now scared to put their money in any European government bonds. Everybody saw Greek and Spanish citizens running to the banks, withdrawing as much cash as possible: easy to imagine that a private investor in Japan or an American pension fund will choose other countries to put his own money in.
This is the reason why Moody’s downgrade is very interesting from a political perspective too. One point that European politicians should keep in their minds is the extreme carefulness they ought to use when issuing statements about Europe’s future. Finding a shared point of view is something Europe can avoid no more. A couple of hours before last week’s stock exchange crack Phillip Rösler, German Deputy Federal Chancellor, stated that Greece will not be able to fulfil his duties, and will consequently be forced to leave the Eurozone. This sounded as a clear denial of what Mario Draghi, ECB’s Governor, had made clear the day before: “Euro cannot be renounced. There is no possible comeback to national values”. It is evident that such a chaos is precisely what European politicians must avoid, in order to restore confidence among international investors. This lack of trust between European nations risk to neutralize the positive effects of the sweeping reforms that has been adopted by the western governments, often causing a strong discontent in the pubblic opinion.
Europe is now at a crossroads: either the national leaders collaborate, embracing a common point of view, and work together for the financial union to become a polical one (which means that the debt of the nations who are in trouble must be shared by every Eurozone’s country), or they should declare the failure of Europe-project. In the first case, the taking on of such a responsibility would probably encorage the investors to recover the lost confidence in the European market: the rise of Eurozone’s markets that we have seen since last Friday (27th July) is in this sense a direct consequence of the new statement issued by Mario Draghi and Angela Merkel, who made known a strong and shared will to save Euro and not lo leave any Eurozone’s country alone. If Europe is unite, even the usual speculation can not be too harmful.
In the second case, the widespread discontent among the citizens and the increasing poverty will probably bring Europe into a political scenario affected by a dangerous instability, in which the populist propaganda could easily find many ears eager to hear their slogans. If we want to avoid such situation, is time for Germany too to declare an undisputed will to save Europe, a project that many Merkel’s predecessors have contributed to build.
Top left: Eurozone countries’ rating, copyright Die Welt; centre: Phillip Rösler, copyright talk.onevietnam.org; bottom left: Draghi and Merkel, copyright linkiesta.it