Leading article: Still far from a solution to the eurozone crisis

Signs of progress in Europe and a new leader in Greece are only steps along the way

Related Topics

Hints that European leaders may be about to take active steps to ease the euro crisis have taken the edge off the panic in the bond markets. Meanwhile, the communiqué from the G20 summit in Mexico talks optimistically of euro members taking "all necessary measures". And, in Greece, Antonis Samaras has formed a workable coalition and been sworn in as Prime Minister. After weeks of turmoil, then, is Europe on a more even keel at last? Alas, no. Indeed, unless policymakers use this sliver of breathing space to make swift and substantial progress, the worst is far from over.

First, Greece. It is a matter of no small relief that Sunday's ballot did not return the leftist Alexis Tsipras, whose imprudent plan to force a renegotiation of Athens's bailout terms looked dangerously likely to pitch the country out of the euro altogether. It is also encouraging that Mr Samaras secured support from across much of the political spectrum. But although the country is no longer in limbo, the problem it represents is not solved.

Ahead of the all-important vote, EU officials suggested that the terms of the bailout might be softened, should the austerity-supporting Mr Samaras triumph. It is a pledge that must now be speedily upheld. Even that, however, will only buy a little more time. Greece's creditors are adamant that any tweaks to the deal will not include changes to either the headline deficit-reduction targets or their timetable. But as the country grinds on through the fifth consecutive year of deep recession, public pain – and protest – will not melt away simply because the voting is done. Neither will Mr Tsipras, now leader of the opposition, wind down his rabble-rousing rhetoric.

The central question about how to remedy the single currency's deep structural flaws, therefore, remains as pertinent as ever. It is here that the whispers from the G20 come in. As it stands, the proposal is to use Europe's €500bn rescue fund to drive down borrowing costs for euro countries hit by the fears over Greece. Superficially at least, the idea has some merit. Bond yields in Spain and Italy have risen unsustainably high over recent weeks. And any efforts to stop market jitters about break-up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy are to be welcomed.

For all yesterday's dip in Spanish and Italian yields, however, the latest proposal is not the end of the story. Even if the scheme is agreed – a big "if", given Germany's silence so far – it will still address only the symptom of the eurozone's sickness, rather than the underlying causes.

The only hope is that, along with a hiatus in Greece, it might be enough to give EU leaders the time to do what they must – that is, to set out both detailed proposals for a bloc-wide banking union and also the steps towards the closer fiscal and political union of which it is a part. Such complex, far-reaching arrangements cannot, of course, be put in place overnight. But without a more convincing show of political commitment to the euro's future, and a clear plan of what will be required and when, any glimmer of optimism from recent developments will – as so often in the past – quickly evaporate.

So far, only José Manuel Barroso has offered any specifics as to what either banking or fiscal union might look like. Such leadership needs to come, not from the European Commission, but from the member states, Germany in particular. German taxpayers may not want to face the fact that the eurozone's collapse will cost them even more than keeping it together. But that does not make it any less true.

With EU finance ministers meeting tomorrow, and a full summit in Brussels next week, investors are looking for more than sticking-plasters. Only a bold statement will do.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page


In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine