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February 2015

Crunch Time For Greece And The Eurozone

Published: Wednesday 25 February 2015

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As I write, Greek and EU officials are meeting in Brussels to try to thrash out a plan by which all can save face. That is a big ask. The Syriza party on the Greek elections on a platform of an end to austerity but austerity is the caveat that underpins EU (German) funding of the Greek economy. If the Greeks refuse to honour past agreements, there is certainly scope for the EU to let Greece exit the Euro but that would cause pain for all concerned and risks contagion in Spain, where elections are due later in the year. So, the stakes are high for Prime Minister Tsipras but the stakes are equally high for the German Chancellor and the EU as a whole. The message that capitulation over Greece would send to other struggling EU states is not one the Germans would want to send and Chancellor Merkel also has Eurosceptic parties biting at her political heels; sticking to the rules has never been more important. So, whilst that battle rages, what of the Euro. Well, Europe`s shared currency is at its weakest level against the US Dollar since 2003 and as weak as it has been against the Pound since 2007. That weakness has been driven by the European Central Bank pumping billions into the Eurozone economy and by the Swiss National Bank abandoning their 1.20 peg between the Swiss Franc and the Euro. And then there is the fear over Greece and the threat of a so called "Grexit". Ultimately, the sky won`t fall if Greece adopts a new Drachma; devalued to an appropriate level. Germany won`t go bust if Greece doesn`t repay their debt but Angela Merkel might lose her job. The Eurozone could probably survive those repercussions but would be weakened immeasurably. But the worst thing that could happen for the Eurozone would be for Greece to exit and then thrive. What message would that send to Spain, Portugal, Italy and The Netherlands?