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What Can Individual Euro Zone Countries Do to Solve Crisis?

With the world's eyes on Europe-wide solutions and summits in recent weeks, it can seem as though there is little that individual euro zone countries can do at the national level to solve their debt, growth and competitiveness problems.

European Union Flag
Jonathan Kitchen | Image Bank | Getty Images
European Union Flag

Germany, the region's largest economy, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is seen by many as a key driver of recent change, along with France.

Its current account surplus and relatively healthy growth levels have helped it keep its status as one of the region's strongest economies.

Yet some believe its cautious approach could be dangerous in the long-term.

"Their current account surplus is over-saving," Adrian Schmidt, FX Strategist at Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets, told CNBC.

"If the rest of Europe is saving more then Germany has to save less, otherwise we are going to finish up with a bigger surplus."

Critics also point out that Germany and France were the first to break the rules on debt levels set out in the Maastricht Treaty – one of the factors which helped cause the current crisis.

"Germany and France were setting a terrible example by breaking the rules (of Maastricht) themselves," Beat Wittmann, CEO & Partner, Dynapartners, told CNBC.

"Those flaws are being corrected."

He believes that one of the outcomes of the current crisis is that the markets are distinguishing between individual euro zone economies more.

"The capital markets have only started differentiating between different credit qualities since the outbreak of the Greek crisis, and that's very good," he said.

Governments have changed in almost all the euro zone's troubled peripheral economies in the past year, but there are concerns that there is only a limited amount of change they can make.

"New governments try to distinguish themselves from previous governments, and it works for about 3-6 months, when they go further in terms of austerity and perhaps fiscal changes, and then it fizzles out," Sony Kapoor, Managing Director at Re-Define, told CNBC Tuesday.

"There's not much they can do that's different because the problems are across the euro area.

"The solution will have to come collectively. There's very little an individual country can do in the short term," he added.

With countries such as Ireland trying to highlight their relatively good performance on lowering the cost of hiring their workers and encouraging foreign investment, this could be dispiriting.

"The effort from the Irish state and people has proven to be much greater than Greece," said Kapoor.

"Countries where, in recent memory, people went through more dramatic changes or saw an economic structure which was far less prosperous, responded differently to the crisis. Countries like Greece, where there had been the same stagnation for years, it's just not in their mindset."

Kapoor believes that tactics such as lower corporate tax rates will only work in smaller countries, but wouldn't work for larger countries such as Spain.

Contact Europe: Economy

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