The Euro is a political project. It may masquerade as a high design created by independent and talented experts, but in the end it will be judged by unruly electorates by whether it helps make them more prosperous or not. The problem for the ECB and the other custodians of the Euro flame is how to reconcile the wishes and needs of the debtor nations with the wishes and needs of the richer surplus countries within the zone. If they get this balance wrong, or fail to meet enough of the legitimate and often conflicting wishes of the two groups, the scheme will perish by the votes of countries driven to elect non believing governments keen to push the Euro too far or even wanting out.
The other way the Euro could be lost is technical incompetence by the governing class. They demonstrated this in 2011 when the Euro was beset by a rolling crisis, as country after country amongst the financially weaker nations experienced large sell offs in their state debt markets, leading to a crisis in how to finance government in these territories.It was demonstrated again when the Cypriot banks got into trouble, and the Euro architects decided not to stand behind the Cyprus Euro or Cyprus banks within the system. They weathered both these crises by compromise and by diluting the pure doctrine of each state and bank having to run itself prudently so it does not strain the system.
The creation of E1.08 trillion will ease some of the tensions within the financial system. There is insufficient money and credit in circulation in several of the weaker states. That is thanks to the need for public and private sector austerity at the same time. The states have been spending too much and have to cut their budgets to cut their deficits, at the same time as the ECB is reining in their commercial banks, cutting private sector credit. The result is mass unemployment and long recessions in the worst affected countries. Printing money and trying to get some of it into these states will be a modest offset to the crunch created by the austerity policies. I have likened it before to the ECB and EU authorities driving the economies of Greece and Italy with the foot firmly on the brake – they are now pressing the other foot on the money accelerator.
The problem comes for them with the politics. The easing may not be enough to transform the economic prospects of the struggling small businesses and the unemployed of Greece or Italy or Portugal. It is quite enough to alarm a lot of Germans. Whilst the ECB claims they have avoided putting German taxes behind most of their interventions, time will tell if that is true. It is likely to mean court case challenges to the actions of the ECB. The main winners of all this are likely to be the lawyers. This action is sufficient to keep the Euro going, but not early enough clarity or action to solve the underlying structural problems of the Euro. It is only when the full weight of German taxes and revenues is put behind the currency and used in the poorer areas that it can start to work properly.