In Europe, it’s the Politics, Stupid
European leaders are waking up to a different type of “troika” emerging: the specter of Greece defaulting on its debt, disintegrating in a political vacuum, and ditching the euro.
The recent EU summit yielded little concrete in policy measures. The markets could have taken solace from moves toward single insurance schemes for banks’ liabilities, from a push toward centralized revenue and spending authority, or from clear commitment toward deploying the existing firewalls quickly and across a large spectrum of rescue operations. Instead, the hard reality of intractable European politics has set in: at the intergovernmental level, divergence in national interest, domestic politics, or economic philosophy makes reaching agreement on any of these issues arduous.
The immediate threat is Greek politics. If the June 17 election produces a weak government, the impending IMF/EU/ECB review mission would have difficulty signing on the disbursement of the next tranche of the loan. (Disbursement of each tranche is conditional on satisfactory fulfillment of reform steps, staggered over time, as agreed in the original loan document.) With the Greek treasury operating day-to-day, and bond payments falling due shortly thereafter, Greece would not have the money to service its obligations.
In my last European note, I spelled out the topography of risks facing American companies operating in Europe. In the upcoming note (due in early July), I will suggest who the losers and winners might be should the crisis take a turn for the worse.