Having by now grown accustomed to the vacuous and pompous non-statements from European leaders of the crisis, one could not have expected much from the G20 summit other than predictable verbal ping pong of the non-EU nations urging Europe to deal with the crisis and the EU representatives returning boisterous claims that the “solution” being presented are “robust”, “timely”, “resolute”, “breakthrough”-like, “decisive”, and so on. This is exactly what is going on.
This weekend’s G20 summit failed to provide for anything different. Here are just few points from the final comments by the participants. The sources are here (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/16/us-g-idUSTRE79C74G20111016) and here (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/15/us-g20-highlights-idUSTRE79E1DA20111015).
Per French Finance Minister Fracois Baroin, the Euro crisis "…took up a little part of our dinner last night. We presented ... elements of the global and lasting package which heads of state and government will present at the Oct 23 summit. It responds to the Greek issue, the maximization of the EFSF, on the level of core tier 1 with a calendar which will be coordinated by the heads of government for the recapitalization of the banks. It responds, naturally, on the governance of the euro zone... We still have a week to finalize it."
Extraordinary vanity and vacuousness of the statement is self-evident. The idea that the Euro area crisis – pretty much the only reason for G20 gatherings nowdays “took up a little part” is absurdly juxtaposed by the claim that the EU presented “elements of the global… package” for resolution of the crisis. And do note the language: “global package” and “lasting”. To the French, it is rather common to refer to anything that impacts them as “global”, but the stretch of terminology here is obvious – the ‘package’ will have to be about the euro zone. In other words, it is not even pan-European, let alone global!
And then there’s that “lasting” bit. Per report: “The [G20] communique urged the euro zone "to maximize the impact of the EFSF (bailout fund) in order to address contagion". EU officials said the most likely option was to use the 440 billion euro [EFSF] fund to offer partial loss insurance to buyers of stressed member states' bonds in a bid to stabilize the market.” Now, give it a thought. A ‘lasting’ package of ‘solutions’ will use temporary guarantees to buyers of distressed debt?! This begs two questions: (1) How on earth will such use of EFSF address the main problem faced by over-indebted nations, namely the problem of unsustainable debts? Guarantees will not reduce Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Italian and Spanish debts to sustainable levels. (2) If EFSF were to remain a €440bn fund, how can the said amount be sufficient to provide already-committed sovereign financing backstop through 2015-2017, supply funds for banks recapitalizations to cover the shortfalls on sovereign funding, provide additional backstop funds for the sovereign deficits in the future, and underwrite a new tranche of CDS-styled insurance contracts that will have to cover ALL of the debt issuance by the distressed sovereigns? Note: it will require to provide cover for all debt, not just maturities-specific issues in order for it to be meaningful and prevent massive amplification of upward sloping yield curve, leading to potential front-loading of new debt by the distressed states and the resulting dramatic rise in maturity mismatch risks.
Baroin went on to dig himself even deeper into the verbal hole: "I have to tell you in truth that the results of the European Council on October 23 will be decisive… We've made good progress [on Greece] with the German finance minister. There are points of agreement which are emerging rather clearly and we will have an agreement on this point, but it would be premature to say what accord will emerge on Oct 23." In other words: the summit achieved nothing and we might not even get a resolution ready for October 23rd summit.
On France position on Greek creditor haircuts: "We will find an answer. [Read: we have no plan] You know the French position which is quite clear: we will refuse any solution that leads to a credit event." So overall, there is no plan and any plan will have to avoid significant write-downs on Greek debt. Or in other words: we have no idea how to solve it, but any solution will be irrelevant, because France wants it to be such.
"Central banks will continue to supply banks with necessary liquidity, we will ensure banks have the necessary capital. This is a very important message central banks are sending." That sounds like ‘do more of the same’ and pray for a different outcome.
"We prepared ambitious decisions for Cannes including a list of systemically important financial institutions." Jeez, what a breakthrough. How about just checking http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/11/07/BV_STRSTST0711_VF.html list - it’s pretty comprehensive and you don’t need a summit to get it.
My favourite court jester was also out in force with statements. EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn didn’t wait for too long to stick his foot into his mouth:
"The communique of this meeting rightly underlines the urgency and need for decisive action to overcome the sovereign debt crisis and restore confidence in our economies."
Sorry, but does the EU Commissioner still need another communiqué to underline the importance of resolving the greatest crisis his employer faced since foundation of the EU?
"The communique welcomes, since the Washington meeting three weeks ago, that in the EU the reform of the economic governance has been concluded."
What reform, Olli? When and how has it been ‘concluded’? And if the ‘reform has been concluded’, why on earth would you say there’s any ‘urgency to overcome the crisis’?
"It is a very important reform ... It will help us to prevent future crisis"
So that’s it, folks. EU will never have another crisis again. As soon as they can deal with the current one, that is. Which, so far, has taken… oh… like 3 years of wholesale destruction of European economies and wealth.
"Beyond these positive steps, and in order to break the vicious circle, ... we put last week on the table a comprehensive plan, a road map. I am pleased to say that this plan received today a warm welcome from our G20 partners" If so, Olli, why on earth would the G20 continue to urge action?
On the net, the ‘summit’ was just another hot air balloon floating up above the havoc of reality, heading straight into the hurricane. Good luck to all on board.