Not much action on these pages in the last few days, largely because I've been writing a piece on Monti and the Italian crisis. And you lucky readers get to see the draft first. Here goes:
Italy has long been seen as a weak link in the Euro. Back in the 1980s, when plans for monetary union first began to take shape, fears that Italy’s political instability and fiscal indiscipline might derail the project were a serious obstacle to progress. The stringent criteria laid down by the Maastricht Treaty for participation in the Euro were designed with Italy and its large public debt in mind, and the Growth and Stability Pact which unsuccessfully governed the Eurozone’s public finances through the 2000s was principally aimed at curbing deficit spending south of the Alps. The current scenario, in which Italy’s creditworthiness is doubted by the financial markets and its debt problems are beginning to seem unsustainable, is the nightmare European policymakers have long dreaded. With Italy in trouble, the once apocalyptic danger of a Greek default is now seen as no more than a little local difficulty.