Greece? Does Anyone Care East of the Danube?

Wednesday, 28 Sep 2011 | 5:43 AM ET

I've been to three European countries in three days and have not seen one newspaper headline on Greece, or the debt crisis. In fact, the topic when raised elicits yawns.

The reason becomes clearer if I tell you the countries are Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. All countries that for various reasons have not yet signed up to the single currency. (And on current news flow are not in a hurry to do so!)

It's not that they aren't mindful of the consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone. These economies are reliant on exporting into the euro bloc and a debt fear-induced slowdown is already pulling down growth forecasts.

No, they are all too aware of what a debt crisis means: higher taxes, austerity and lower living standards.

They know because to a greater or lesser extent it’s the policy path they have followed since the global financial crisis. And there are still long-running structural economic problems like foreign currency debt exposure.

Euro Zone 'Best Plan' Unclear: FX Strategist
"What is the plan in Europe? We're in the middle of a systemic crisis by now and we don't really know what is the best plan. The crisis is getting worse and I think beyond the rumors and the noise, the plan based on the July 21 decisions is what seems to be the best plan," Thanos Vamvakidis, Head of European G10 FX Strategy at Bank of America told CNBC Tuesday.

Hungary, perhaps more than the others, knows because it was forced to take IMF cash and has so far stared down the predictors of economic doom.

The policy making hasn't been pretty (nationalizing private pensions, windfall taxes and forcing haircuts on banks) but arguably it has been effective in the short run.

So you'll forgive our friends in Eastern Europe for being a little nonchalant about Western Europe’s self-induced "crisis".

They see too many Europeans who have been living 'high on the hog' and borrowing to pay for it. They're curious about who will eventually foot the bill for the good times—but headline news it ain't!


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