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June 08, 2016

Getting real on debt relief

In an interview with Les Échos Olivier Blanchard argues that another round of debt relief is necessary for Greece. Alexis Tsipras cannot implement the reforms Europeans want him to if they are not conducive to growth. There is no sense in obliging Tsipras to reforms for which he has no popular mandate, and to insist on a 3.5% primary surplus at all costs. Growth has to rebound, even if it is feeble in the beginning. This will change the climate in the country and create new dynamics. 

Martin Wolf calls it a big extend-and-pretend: the eurozone pretends Greece is not in default and Greece pretends it is reforming. From the IMF’s debt sustainability analysis it is clear that debt relief is unavoidable. Of course, both sides can continue with their extend and pretend game, kicking the can down the road. Alternatively, European creditors could get realistic on debt relief and the primary surplus target and offer concessions on both in exchange for real reforms. A third option is to acknowledge that Greece is better off outside the eurozone. With the trade balance still in deficit despite the recession, the Grexit debate is likely to reemerge once the deficit rises again. For the IMF, Wolf recommends that they get clear on their own position. If the fund does not get concessions from Germany on debt relief, it should walk away. It may not save Greece, but it could at least save itself.

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June 08, 2016

The re-alignment of the Italian right

Italy's newspapers have been full of post-election analysis. We noted that Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega Nord, has come out in support of two candidates from the Five Star Movement for the second round of the mayoral elections: Virginia Raggi in Rome and Chiara Appendino in Turin. The importance of Salvini's endorsement of Raggi and Appendino lies in the impact this will have on the right of Italian politics. In past elections the Lega was aligned with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia. For the Rome mayoral elections the two parties supported different candidates. This split of the vote enabled the PD candidate to come second. If you take the total sum of the votes, the Five Star Movement performed well, though the PD did better overall due to the voting system. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the Five Star Movement is the real opposition to the PD - and that it is supported by parts of the populist right. Berlusconi, meanwhile, said he will cast a blank vote at the Rome elections.

One of the problems for Matteo Renzi and his party is the lack of a strong economic recovery. There are still no signs of a lift-off, according to Istat's latest report on the Italian economy. We also noted a report in Corriere della Sera this morning that Pier Carlo Padoan is considering cuts in income taxes and corporate taxes ahead of the elections.

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June 08, 2016

A critique of Germany's Turkey policy

Asli Aydintasbas of the European Council on Foreign Relations has a very good article in which he criticises Germany duplicity - the brave declaration by the Bundestag on the Turkish genocide of Armenian in 1915, and Angela Merkel's policy of coddling a dictator today. He notes that

"EU officials uttered not a peep on press freedoms, the pressures on the judiciary or the dire human-rights situation in Kurdish areas, until the European public finally protested the double standard. The German government is courageous to face its past, but what it should also question is its policy of omertà about the present. Turkish democrats have grown deeply suspicious of Berlin’s politicking over the past year, seeing their struggles ignored for the sake of a handshake on migrants. The vote on history won’t change that."

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  • On Article 50
  • Valls threatens to stop applying EU directive on foreign workers
  • On the EU's bleak geopolitical position
  • June 28, 2016
  • Towards a new North Sea Alliance
  • And what about the eurozone?
  • Sarkozy favours French referendum to rebuild EU
  • June 22, 2016
  • Still too close to call
  • What will the PSOE do?
  • Is Renzi changing his mind on the referendum?
  • French politics and CGT protests
  • June 17, 2016
  • Group 53 marks its difference from Tsipras
  • Polls see Mélenchon ahead of Hollande
  • Why is nobody listening to economists?
  • June 13, 2016
  • Civil protest against Syriza
  • Protests over labour French labour law continue
  • Spain's politial realignment
  • Duff on Turkey
  • June 10, 2016
  • What after Brexit?
  • The decisive battle of the French left
  • A new era of Italian politics
  • June 09, 2016
  • Greens threaten to block German asylum law
  • The escalating Turkish problem
  • Conspiracy theories in Austria
  • Why Leave means Leave