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Soros: Three Days Left to Save the Euro

Tuesday, 26 June 2012 02:24 PM

Only three days remain for European policymakers to decide on a way to save the euro and keep the monetary zone intact, says billionaire financier George Soros.

European Union leaders will meet Thursday and Friday to discuss ways to firewall and extinguish the European debt crisis raging within Greece and spreading fast to Spain and beyond.

Despite market-friendly results in recent Greek parliamentary elections and the creation of a $125 billion rescue fund for Spain to use to recapitalize its banks, borrowing costs remain sky-high in Spanish and other debt auctions, revealing that investors remain as nervous over the continent's fate as ever.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

Failure to come up with a way to overhaul the economy this week could mean the continent missed out on its last opportunity.

"We are down to three days now," Soros tells Spiegel Online.

"Europe's leaders need to take bold steps at the EU summit on Thursday and Friday."

Bold steps include creating a central banking supervision and examination body as well as placing a single bond financed and underwritten by all member nations, policies European paymaster Germany has opposed.

German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have insisted that recovery will come from internal reform in troubled European nations and not through selling so-called euro bonds, which ask some nations to shoulder others' debts.

However, further German resistance to such moves could prove costly should Greece exit the eurozone, defaulting on its debts in the process and pressure Spain and others to follow suit.

"There is no question that a breakup of the euro would be very damaging, very costly, both financially and politically. And the biggest loss would be incurred by Germany," Soros says.

"Germans have to bear in mind that, effectively, they have suffered practically no losses so far. Transfers have all been in the form of loans, and it is only when the loans are not repaid that real losses will be incurred."

Demands that Greece and others stick with painful austerity measures such as spending cuts won't work either, as such fiscal belt-tightening tools exacerbate downturns and wipe out growth, which should take priority over narrowing deficits, at least for now.

"There is no doubt that the countries that now have a very large debt have not introduced the kind of structural reforms that Germany did and are therefore at a disadvantage. But the problem is that this disadvantage is becoming even more pronounced through the punitive policies in place now," Soros says.

"Italy currently has to spend 6 percent of its GDP every year just to stay even with Germany because it has to pay so much more to refinance its debt. There is no way, with that handicap, that Italy can close the competitiveness gap with Germany."

The upcoming meeting will group all members of the European Union, including those who do not use the euro as a currency.

Skepticism for a solution remains high due to Germany's unwillingness to back measures such as selling euro bonds.

"Last week we were very hopeful that they were moving forward and the meetings this week would have a positive ending. Today there is a lot of doubt the EU summit will generate anything substantial," says Gail Dudack, chief investment strategist for Dudack Research Group in New York, according to Reuters.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012 02:24 PM
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