Grčija v Schäuble-Landu

Karl Whelan komentira, kako si Schäuble sproti izmišlja pravila oziroma namerno napačno interpretira obstoječa pravila EU. Denimo 125.1 člen EU pogodbe navaja kot pravni temelj, zakaj odpis dolga znotraj EU naj ne bi bil pravno dopusten. Kar je non-sense, kajti ta člen govori zgolj o tem, da nobena država ne sme prevzeti dolga druge države “brez medsebojnih finančnih garancij za skupno izvedbo specifičnega projekta“. Člen ne govori o tem, da si države ne bi smele posojati ali prestrukturirati dolgov. Prav tako pravila EU nikjer ne omenjajo možnosti izhoda iz evro območja, kar je prejšnja dva tedna Schäuble tako forsiral.

Kot lucidno ugotavlja Whelan, EU pravila pomenijo to, kar Schäuble hoče, da pomenijo (kot pri Alice v čudežni deželi). Pravilo št. 1 v Schäuble-Landu je, da je nemško stališče ukaz. Vrhovna dogma. Proti kateri ni dvoma. In kateri se ne sme upreti. Edino pravilo, ki ga je Tsiprasova Grčija dejansko prelomila, je, da ni ravnala tako, kot ji je naročila Schäublejeva Nemčija (in njeni poslušni sateliti). Razporeditev moči v EU pa omogoča, da lahko vsako takšno neposlušno državo, čeprav gospodar ni imel in nima prav – zlomijo – če se seveda ne imenuje Nemčija ali Francija.

The basis for Schäuble’s argument appears to be Article 125.1 of the consolidated treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Here is the article in full.

The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project.

This is the article that used to be called “the no bailout clause”. However, it is nothing of the sort. It simply says that member states cannot take on the debts of another member state. This did not rule out member states “bailing out” other countries by making loans to them. And indeed, the European Court of Justice in its Pringle decision established that the European Stabilisation Mechanism bailout fund was consistent with Article 125.

Also worth noting about Article 125 are all the things it doesn’t mention. It doesn’t rule out loans being member states and doesn’t discuss these loans being restructured. And it makes no mention whatsoever of the Eurozone. So there is simply no legal basis for the idea that Greek debt being written down is illegal while they remain in the Eurozone but is fine if they leave the euro.

It is conceivable that someone could still take a case to the ECJ objecting to a write-off on the grounds that the granting and write-off of loans to Greece would result in more debt for European countries and allowed Greece to pay off other creditors. So you could argue that this was effectively the same thing as the other member states assuming Greece’s other debt commitments.

To my mind, this line of argumentation moves far away from the simple and clear language of Article 125.1. I also don’t see much in the Pringle decision to suggest the ECJ would uphold such a case. There would be even less case for a legal argument against an “effective write-off” involving postponing interest payments and principal payments for some very long period of time, such as 100 years.

So there is no “Eurozone rule” against a writing off Greek debt. Conversely, despite Schäuble’s enthusiastic support, the rules don’t allow for a euro exit. Rules it appears, mean whatever Mr. Schäuble wants them to mean.

Neither Bruton nor Nixon explain which eurozone rules Greece has been breaking that necessitated threats of expulsion. People can point to the under-statements of Greece’s debt that pre-dated the current crisis. But these events are long in the past and did nothing to contribute to the escalation of the current crisis this year. You can also point to the Stability and Growth Pact rules but keep in mind that these are being broken by the majority of euro area members.

Nixon explains the real rule that Tsipras has broken:

Like Italy’s Matteo Renzi, France’s François Hollande and others before him, Mr. Tsipras has had to learn the rules of the European game: that you don’t gain leverage over other leaders simply by winning elections — they have all done that — but by winning their respect by showing you have the capacity to make tough decisions at home.

This gets it about right. The rules that Tsipras has broken are unwritten rules that reflect the power the euro area’s creditor states have to ruin any member states that don’t do as they are ordered. Accepting such a large loan from these states in 2010 was probably the biggest mistake in Greece’s economic history. Indeed, I would bet most Greeks wished now there really had been a no-bailout rule.

Vir: Karl Whelan

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