The late Milton Friedman, economic guru of Thatcherism, said that it would be impossible to judge whether the euro was a success until it had to cope with a recession. The single currency will face its greatest test in the next few months as the economic conditions and economic policies of the 16 euroland countries diverge sharply in the face of what may be the worst, global recession for seventy years.
At least six euroland nations – Greece, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Italy – are building what may turn out to be unsustainable new mountains of private and public debt. They are, up to a point, sheltered by the euro because they have no national currency to collapse, as Iceland’s did. But they face increasing difficulties, and expense, in finding buyers for government debt. Greece already has to offer interest rates more than 2 per cent more than Germany – compared to 0.2 per cent more before the crisis.