Open Europe Blog

Debt pooling in practice? (h/t Phil’s Stock World)

In recent weeks Chancellor Merkel has come under ever-increasing pressure to “do what is necessary” and take the plunge on debt pooling within the eurozone. This pressure has been applied from a wide of actors including the other big eurozone countries (France, Italy and Spain), the EU institutions (Commission President Barroso, Council President van Rompuy, Eurogroup chief Juncker and ECB head Draghi), the IMF and last but not least UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama.

However, Merkel – who in her time has crossed a fair few ‘red lines’ – has come out swinging ahead of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders, with Handelsblatt reporting that she is has lashed out at discussions ahead of the for focusing “far too much on all kinds of common liability [including] eurobonds, eurobills and a European common deposit guarantee fund with common liability”. She described the proposals as “economically false and counterproductive” and asked Van Rompuy, to rework the report he published ahead of the summit to shift the focus from debt pooling to budget discipline.

According to Reuters, at a meeting today with representatives from the FDP, her junior coalition partner, she went even further, claiming that

“Europe will not have shared total debt liability as long as I live” 

If accurate, this is strong stuff and – though intended for a very domestic audience – certainly a departure from the measured and stoic tone Merkel usually adopts. Likewise Merkel’s reaction to suggestions that Germans would be getting a referendum on a new constitution allowing for greater EU integration in the immediate future – after Finance Minister Schäuble had suggested this in an interview with Der Spiegel –suggest that she does not anticipate full debt pooling as an immediate possibility, with FT Deutschland citing her spokesman as saying “clearly we are not there yet.”

However, to split some pretty big hairs, the qualification of “shared total liability” hints that Merkel is not ruling out all forms of eurobonds during her lifetime, such as debt redemption fund as favoured by the SPD and Green opposition. Likewise she could offer other concessions, something hinted at by the news that Germany could be prepared to drop the provision that ESM loans are senior to other debt, something which has been perceived to have contributed to rising Spanish debt yields on the assumption private creditors would take the biggest hit.

However, nothing will happen on any form of debt pooling before the German elections in the autumn 2013.

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