As the euro zone enters the most dangerous phase of its debt crisis, bailout patience is eroding in the fiscally responsible tier of the zone. While Brussels wonders whether the Finns have become Euro-skeptic, the reality is the reverse. Europeans are turning into Finns.
The Eurozone’s debt crisis is taking a dangerous turn, with potentially global repercussions.
As long as the frustrated investors focused on the peripheral economies, which each accounted for less than 3 percent of the Eurozone GDP, Brussels could tame the fires. Now those times are history, as the prospects of major euro economies, including Spain and even Italy, look increasingly bleak.
In addition to the impending sovereign defaults, the emerging European stability facility will offer too little and come too late, to stabilize the region’s financial sector. The European banks are significantly more vulnerable than has been acknowledged, despite two sets of (not-so-stressful) stress tests.
Led by Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank (ECB) is sitting on toxic assets that will take years to defuse.
Meanwhile, the erosion of competitiveness and innovation in the peripheral euro economies and the zone as a whole is reducing growth potential, although growth is vital for regional recovery.
And that is why, in the short term, the tiny Finland is significant at a regional level. Although small at around 1.4 billion euros, the Finnish share of the new support for Greece is important because its triple-A credit rating adds weight to the 109 billion euro rescue agreed on July 21 – Athens’s second bailout package.
Economic crisis, political turmoil
For years, the tiny, stable and thriving Finland avoided headlines. Recently it has attracted international spotlight twice.
The first crisis ensued with the outcome of Finnish elections, which boosted the position of the Euro-skeptic “Finns Party”, while endangering the bailout of Greece. The second crisis evolved a few weeks ago as Finland’s Minister of Finance, Jutta Urpilainen, announced that a bilateral agreement had been reached between Finland and Greeceunder which Greece would provide cash collateral for Finland’s guarantees of its bailout loans.
In Brussels, the euro technocrats, led by Olli Rehn, the Finnish-born European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, complained that the Finnish government gave no advance notice about the bilateral deal.
In effect, the economic instability that has swept through the continent is now generating political turmoil – even in Helsinki.