This piece was first written and circulated on the 2nd of September and appeared as a comment piece in Le Monde on the 10th of September
The Eurocrisis is on a pause as markets and EU leaders alike wait with bated breath for ECB. President Draghi, who has promised the European Central Bank will not let the Euro fail, to reveal his hand. They are right to think what the ECB will say or do is very important, but it is hard not to feel that too much is being expected of the ECB.
Between the things the ECB cannot do and the things it will not do, its ability to deliver a sustainable ‘big bang’ has been severely curtailed. There are three main reasons to suspect that no matter what the ECB does this week or the next it will not be sufficient to stem the Eurocrisis. Those who have their hopes riding on the ECB are best advised to recognize that while larger scale ECB interventions are necessary, they are simply not sufficient to bring the Eurocrisis under control.
The future of the Euro area banking system hangs in balance. It would not be an exaggeration to say that were it not for more than a trillion Euros of implicit and explicit public support in the form of capital injections and funding guarantees from Member States & liquidity support from the European Central Bank, the Euro area banking system could well collapse.
While some may think that, four years after Lehman’s collapse, the biggest problems of European banks are now over, that may not be true. All things considered, the biggest challenges for Euro area banks still lie ahead. In particular, the combination of largely unreformed banking models, large scale regulatory changes and uncertainties around their final shape as well as the worsening Eurocrisis mean that Euro area banks face very large, potentially insurmountable challenges.
Many of you have noticed that Re-Define has been apparently missing in action having not sent out comments, given interviews or published papers or Op-Ed’s on the Eurocrisis or Financial Reform since the beginning of March. This was deliberate. It’s not that we have stopped working on these issues, far from it. It’s that we decided it would be healthy for us, given our sharp, but constructively critical tone, to stay away from the headlines for a bit.
Given the premature complacence that was creeping into policymaking circles, we got heat for continuing to insist the problems were far from over. For example, we were criticized in some quarters for being too negative at the last European Council in March when we said “This European summit reeked of missed opportunities, premature celebration and undeserved backslapping. This may come back to haunt our leaders sooner than they think.” (2nd Mar)