THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch finance minister says he blames Germany and France in large part for Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, after they violated rules laid down at the creation of the euro by running larger-than-permitted budget deficits in the early 2000’s.
Jan Kees de Jager says that when the two largest countries in the eurozone ran deficits of over 3 percent in 2003 and 2004 without penalty it “opened the flood gates for other countries” to flout debt rules, ultimately leading to the current crisis.
Minister the Jager is of course referring to the Stability-pact, an agreement brought home by our then-minister of finance, Gerrit Zalm, as a major Dutch victory. The pact was paraded around the Dutch MSM at the time to allay suspicions about the single currency, that even back then were quite significant among Dutch citizens. Suspicions that were unfortunately borne out, in spades, by recent events.
Minister de Jager is right of course, Germany and France set an extremely unfortunate example by violating the pact, paving the way for the likes of Greece and Italy. The subsequent ‘reform’ of the stability pact made the error even worse, by showing the EUnion is extremely accommodating where violating its own rules is concerned. It is no wonder that the series of profligate Greek Papandreou governments thought they could get away with it, expecting the EUnion to bail them out. Even if that too would be against the rules the EUnion had set for itself.
But what is curious is this: Why now? Why pick a fight with the two big EUnion bullies at this juncture? Holland and Germany will meet with Finland next Tuesday (NL) to discuss the crisis and the possibility, if any, of collaterals for a third bail-out of Greece, as demanded by the Finnish government. Not the best of times to start antagonizing Ms. Merkel, it would seem.
I don’t know nearly enough about high politics to make any informed judgement. But thinking it over I come up with only two possible explanations. Either Jan-Kees blundered into an off-hand remark as he was philosophizing about the origins of the current crisis, or he is lighting the wick in a barrel of gunpowder.
Minister de Jager does not strike me as so unprofessional that option #1 could be the case. I disagree with him vehemently about the euro, its role in our economy, its benefits versus its costs and the benefits of the EUnion in general. We find ourselves on opposite sides of the issue. In addition I suspect very much that minister de Jager has been very, VERY economical with the truth all during the last 18 months of this crisis. But through all that time I did not once get the impression that our finmin is a man out of his depth.
His is a lousy job. Chances are it will come back to haunt him. In a just world it most certainly will. But he is good at his job, very dedicated and equally professional.
Which leaves us with option #2. That immediately leads to a second question: Which powder keg is he trying to light? Several options spring to mind, all equally unlikely. Evidently I am missing a few crucial pieces to solve this particular puzzle. And if there is something I can’t abide , it is not understanding something, not being able to explain it.
So… What is going on here? Anybody want to venture a guess? Anybody have a clue, however small, to shed light on this and put to rest my fevered brain?