George Soros Blasts Germany for Its Role in Europe Crisis
"We have gone from crisis to crisis. Germany did the minimum that was necessary to preserve the euro but no more! And that is what maintained the crisis conditions which are now four-years old," Soros said at the World Leaders Forum this week.
He sees the underlying problems as twofold: First, Germany is in the driver's seat. It doesn't dictate policy, but effectively no European policy can be proposed without first gaining its approval.
The second problem is that Germany is pushing austerity on debtor nations, and Soros doesn't see forced budget cuts as an effective solution. He argues the situation is actually only going to get worse.
"I am afraid Europe is in an existential crisis," Soros said. "The debtor countries are subordinated to the dictates of the creditor countries and have effectively been relegated to second-class membership. I think this is politically not acceptable."
Austerity measures could trigger a debt-deflation spiral, Soros believes, which could lead to lower wages, layoffs and reduced consumer spending. That could create a long-lasting recession in which the debt burden keeps growing.
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz agrees with Soros on austerity being ineffective.
"Austerity won't bring back prosperity; it's not a growth solution," Stiglitz said. "The Europe Union needs more integration, more fiscal union, a banking union and policies that will enable countries to catch up," he said.
Ireland has made an economic recovery using austerity and as a result, is often held up as the poster child for the European recovery.
"We have gotten our competitiveness back in a really significant way, the competitive cost is down, our exports are doing very well, foreign investment is doing exceptionally well, we are back in growth. Very, very modest but it's real, it's growth," said Anne Anderson, Ireland's permanent representative to the United Nations.
However, she cautions that austerity comes at a price.
"I don't want for a moment to underestimate the difficulty and the hurting of Ireland – it's very real," Anderson said.
Soros believes it's not just the debtor countries that will suffer. Stable nations like Germany will suffer, too, and that could be the tipping point.
As the effects of quantitative easing by countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom start to kick in, that will in turn devalue those nations' currencies, which then makes German exports more expensive.
"I think after the German elections in September there will be a change in German attitude because by that time … I think Germany will also be in a recession," Soros said.