EU clashes with Rome over Italy’s budget plans, again

the daily stirrer
Picture: Deutsche Welle

You thought Brexit was the only problem the EU was struggling with at the moment? How wrong were you?

The EU Commission’s latest rejection of Italy’s budget is the first step in disciplinary procedures that, in typical schol bully stylem the bastards of Brussels threaten will lead to big fines and economic sanctions. The EU Commission said Italy has “seriously violated” EU budget rules when rejecting again Italy’s proposed budget on Wednesday.

The Commission confirmed its assessment that “Italy’s draft budget plan is in particularly serious non-compliance” with EU debt rules, Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in Brussels. It is woth reminding ourselves here that when Italy, with its traditionally weak currency, was bullied into joining the European Single Currency System (the Euro) after the EU had ben its own rules to breaking point in a politically motivated move to force weaker economies into financial integration, thus advancing the Federal European Superstate agenda.

Dombrovskis said with the Italian government’s current plan “we see a risk of the country sleepwalking into instability.” (Well he’s Greek so he’d know.)

“We conclude that the opening of a debt-based excessive deficit procedure is warranted,” he added, referring to the EU’s disciplinary process against member states for over-spending, a policy which has impoverished millions of people in Greece, Spain, Portgal, Ireland and Italy as EU imposed austerity policies have destroyed the spending power of wages.

The Commission’s move is mandated for countries whose debt levels are above the Eurozone threshold and who are not doing enough to reduce borrowing. Unfortunately not all countries are as strong economically as Germany, and with their weak economies tied to the German industrial powerhouse they cannot operayte within the eU rules.

Italy’s government, led by a populist coalition of left leanin Five-Star Movement and the right-of-centre Lega, has remained largely defiant towards Brussels. On Wednesday, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, deputy prime minister and de fact leader of the government, said any EU sanctions against Rome would be “disrespectful” towards Italians.

“We are convinced about the numbers in our budget. We will talk about it in a year’s time,” he told reporters. Rome and the EU Commission had been at odds for weeks over Italy’s budget after it had been rejected by the Commission a first time.

Last week Italy submitted a revised version of its budget with only minor adjustments that did not appease the Commission and EU member states.

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Drunkard Juncker says EU Cannot Survive Without Italy<

 

Is the EU planning to pick a fight with the olive oil business
Image: Paramount Pictures

Ignoring warnings from the European Commission, the ECB and the European Commission (as well as practically every other supranational organization in Europe), the populist-led Italian government managed to submit their draft budget to the Commission before a midnight deadline – an outcome that was cheered by BTP traders, who bought back into Italian bonds, once again compressing the spread to bunds, which has blown out in recent months.

But rather than representing a deescalation of tensions between Italy and Brussels, the game of fiscal chicken in which both sides are presently engaged is instead entering its most acute phase, as Brussels now has two weeks to review the budget proposal before it can either accept the plan, or send it back with requests for revisions. And anybody who has been paying even passing attention to the populist government’s denigration of EU budgetary guidelines over the past few months should already understand that Brussels won’t just sit back and accept the budget for what it is.

In fact, European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker hinted as much Tuesday morning when he told Italian reporters that accepting the budget would be tantamount to inviting an widespread revolt against the EU, per Italian newswire ANSA and the FT. Juncker also blasted Italy for abandoning the fiscal commitments it made when it joined the EU. However, though they have wavered from time to time, the Italians haven’t kept their intentions to press for a budget deficit equivalent to 2.4% of GDP a secret. Even Giovanni Tria, Italy’s economy minister, defended the draft budget, saying the deficit “would be considered normal in all Western democracies, not explosive.”

Undeterred by the fact that there’s absolutely no political will in the Italian government to back down from their budget stance, despite threats from the ECB to provoke a Greece-style banking crisis if the Italians don’t yield to EU rules.

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Italy Declares War On Merkel And The EU

Matteo Salvini promises Eurosceptic surge in 2019 EU elections
Matteo Salvini promises Eurosceptic surge in 2019 EU elections – Picture:www.express.co.uk

There was never any doubt that the leaders of the Euroskeptic coalition now governing Italy planned to challence the EU’s ruling bureaucracy over Italy’s proposed budget. Both Deputy Prime Ministers, Luigi Di Maio of Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of The League, were adamant about locking horns with European Union leadership over all issues of sovereignty between now and May’s European Parliamentary elections. This battle, coming as it does as Angeal Merkel’s fraile coalition faces another major setback, indicates that Germany’s domination of the EU, if not at an end, is looking very vulnerable.

The Italian budget proposes both tax cuts and universal income and has kicked into touch the EU budget limit of 2.0% of GDP, coming in at 2.4%. It has put their Finance Minister, Giovanni Tria, in a difficult position because Tria doesn’t want to negotiate this budget with Brussels, preferring a less confrontational, read more pro-EU, approach.

Salvini and Di Maio, however, have other plans. And since we began covering this story before the Italian election back in March, the imperative that Salvini force the issue of the Troika’s demands – (the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) – back down their throats on debt restructuring/forgiveness.

Salvini’s emergence as the leader of this fight, was that Italy, because they are more than technically insolvent, have all the leverage in the negotiations. The size of their outstanding debt and the liabilities existent on the balance sheets of banks across Europe, most notably the nearly $1 trillion in TARGET 2 liabilities, are something Juncker, Draghi, Merkel and Christine LaGarde at the IMF simply cannot ignore. The reason Italy’s debt problem, and those of other EU members in southern Europe are so intractable is the single currency, which was created for political reasons without regard for the sheer economic stupidity of tying economies like those of Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal to the German economic powerhouse. This cut off the debtor nations from their traditional escape route, devaluation.

To successfully challenge EU financial diktat, Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, leader of Five Star have to make a serious effort to negotiate a good deal for Italy with Brussels, Berlin and the IMF. This is why the budget squeaked past the 2.0% limit and then they walked it back to 2.0% but with provisions they knew would anger the EU finance ministers.

The point of this is to provoke Brussels into a punitive reaction and then paint them as the bad guys to shift public sentiment back towards an Italeave position. Italy’s problems are not solvable with Germany holding the purse strings for all the EU countries.

With a big swing towards Euroscepticism and nationalism under way in Germany it looks as though the days of the Federal Europe project are truly numbered. With voting due tomorrow in Bravaria’s regional election, the CSU, sister party of Merkel’s CDU and traditional ruling party in the Bravarian provincial government and their main rivals the Social Democrats see their respective votes collapsing. Alternate for Germany (AfD)is now pushing up towards 20% nationally and looks likely to have a significant presence in the Bravarian assembly after the votes are counted, while centre left voters are turning to The Greens. If AfD out polls the Greens and denies the CSU a path to a coalition government without them then that could have spillover effects for Angela Merkel.

The latest polls have AfD averaging around 11% versus a strong push up to 18% by the Greens. Given recent shock results we must doubt the accuracy of these polls, but given the recent history of anti – establishment parties it would not be a surprise to see AfD outperform their polling numbers on Sunday.

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Lord Rothschild: The New World Order Is At Risk


Baron Jacob Rothschild – concerned banker or Bond villain? (Picture Source:  http://www.myfirstclasslife.com  )

In the RIT Capital Partners 2014 annual report, the head of Rothschild family banking empire warned that “the geopolitical situation is most dangerous since WWII.” A year later, Baron Jacob Rothschild repeated his warning about the outcome of “what is surely the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world”. In August 2017 with markets still behaving irrationally he cautioned that “share prices have in many cases risen to unprecedented levels at a time when economic growth is by no means assured.”

Little did he know at the time that, driven by High Frequency Trading, computer algorithms and a quasi religious blind faith in technology they would keep rising, but related to that, he also made another warning which the market has so far ignored:

The period of monetary accommodation may well be coming to an end. Geopolitical problems remain widespread and are proving increasingly difficult to resolve.

In the latest half-year commentary from RIT Capital Partners published yesterday, Lord Rothschild made his sternest warning to date, this time focusing on the global economic system that was established after WWII to create a new world order, and which he believes is now in jeopardy.

The billionaire banker pointed to the US-China trade war, which is really a US versus Russia, China and Iran currency war, and the Eurozone crisis, with the resurgence of nationalism threatening the European Unity project after the UK’s Brexit vote, as the key problems putting economic order at risk, and the lack of a “common approach” – a reference to the gradual unwind of global thinking in the wake of President Trump – that has made “co-operation today much more difficult”:

“In 9/11 and in the 2008 financial crisis, the powers of the world worked together with a common approach. Co-operation today is proving much more difficult. This puts at risk the post-war economic and security order.”

It wasn’t clear if he was referring to the post-war fiat money standard that emerged once FDR devalued the dollar relative to gold, and then fixed a price for the yellow metal, a tenuous link that was subsequently destroyed by Nixon who finally took the US off the gold standard, or the primacy of the dollar which emerged as the world’s reserve currency after the end of WWII, paving the way for the US to bid for global hegemony, but whenever one of the people who profited handsomely from the “post war world order” warns it may be on its last legs, it may be time to worry.

Either way it is hard to believe that Rothschild is a stupid man, although living in an elitist bubble he may be detached from reality, but his comments suggest that he is unaware the great mass of people have woken up to the fact that globalisation can only benefit the elite in the west, while diminishing the educated populations of developed nations in favour of buying the loyalty of uneducated third world multitudes with handouts and cheap gadgets.

With global risks growing after politicians and the banking cartel have kicked the can down the road for several years by printing money, how is Rothschild positioned? He writes that “in the circumstances our policy is to maintain our limited exposure to quoted equities and to enter into new commitments with great caution” and indeed, in the first half, RIT had a net quoted equity exposure of only 47%, historically low. The reason: the iconic banking family is concerned that the 10-year bullish cycle and market rally could finally be ending.

While Rothschild noted that “many of the world’s economies have enjoyed a broad-based acceleration not seen since the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, with as many as 120 countries seeing stronger growth last year” he also cautioned that “we continue to believe that this is not an appropriate time to add to risk. Current stock market valuations remain high by historical standards, inflated by years of low interest rates and the policy of quantitative easing which is now coming to an end.”

One potential risk is Europe, where debt levels have reached “potentially destructive levels”.

Quite so, but the growth we have seen since the 2008 crash has not been organic growth but has occurred mainly because interest rates at which governments lend to banks (by selling bonds to fund their deficits,) have been artificially maintained at suicidally low levels. This has enabled banks to borrow at a quarter or a half per cent, and use their borrowings to buy bonds with a fixed rate of three or three and a half per cent (or higher for nations with weaker economies.) These bonds often give a higher yield as it is possible to buy them at a discount.

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While we are distracted with sex scandals at home and terrorists rampaging through the middle east and Africa, the US / EU / NATO confrontation with Russia / China / Iran is geting into a very dangerous state. While the Chinese led move to dump the US dollar as global reserve currency is causing economic chaos, the USA attempts to provoke armed conflict with Russia are getting more reckless and desperate.

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If the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) the bank where banks and governments do business is worried about the state of the markets, we are in bigger trouble than anyone is letting on.

Based on info at ZH (reveal)
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EU’s arrogant plan to break defiance in Italy is a dangerous game

After Eurosceptic parties Lega and Five Star Movement thwarted the atempt of pro – EU president Matarella to overturn the democratic vote and prevent the Eurosceptic coalition from forming a government, the EU, showing its usual comtempt for democracy and the welfare of the people has decided to punish the nation and its people, in similar ways to those used to punish Greece, Portugal and Ireland when the diktat of Brussels was defied. The result is Italy no longer has a lender of last resort ready to buy up its sovereign debt, and therefore has no last line of defence for its always dodgy commercial banking system.

As long as Italians remain defiant and refuse to accept a government of EU approved bureaucratic appointees, The European Central Bank will progressively removing its shield as quantitative easing is wound down and purchases of Italian bonds fall to zero. There will be no protection by the end of the year. The Draghi pledge to do “whatever it takes” to prop up Italy’s membership of the single currency system no longer holds.

No ECB rescue will be possible unless the Italian parliament formally authorises the government to invoke the EU /IMF bail-out mechanisms (OMT-ESM) and accepts austerity imposed by Brussels. This would amount to a “Troika” regime similar to the one that wreaked havoc on society in Greece in order to protect the interests of European .

The bail out funds would then have to be approved by a vote in the German Bundestag and the Dutch Tweede Kamer. The terms they would impose on Italy would effectively put that nation under German occupation. An Italian government would not be able to act without permission from Berlin. It is inconceivable that either Lega nationalists and Five Star Eurosceptics would accept such an arrangement. Some of them would see it as a tactical opportunity to free their country from the “German cage” of monetary union.

President Sergio Mattarella may be a man of Virtù but he is also an unelected placeman of the old “casta”. Should he try to deliver Italy to EU budget commissars through a technical government, in defiance of his own parliament, he risks a dangerous breakdown of civil order.

What the EU are overlooking is that Italy, with a population of almost sisty million and the eighth largest economy in the world, might not accept being bullied as Ireland, Portugal and Greece with their small populations and weak economies had to. They are making the same mistake with Britain, and despite the best efforts of Theresa (the appeaser) May to yield to all their demands are making a civilised process leading to Btitain’s exit from the Union impossible.

Europe has gone back to the ridiculous circumstances of the 2011 crisis when Brussels prioritised saving the failinjg single currency over the economic interests of membr states and a Eurozone member state could lose access to the capital markets and slide into bankruptcy, like any private company, or the City of Detroit, or Orange County (1994).

Italy however, despite its perpetual political and financial chaos chaos, is not a poor nation. The country does not have a debt problem as such. While public liabilities (sovereign debt etc.) are high at 132pc of GDP, private liabilities are low. The Bank of International Settlements estimates that total (core) debt is 263pc of GDP, compared to 290pc in the Netherlands, 303pc in France, 321pc in Portugal, and 338pc in Belgium.

Italians have greater financial wealth per capita than the Germans. They have €1 trillion in bank accounts and $3 trillion in liquid assets. The country has a current account surplus of 2.6pc of GDP. It has a primary budget surplus of 1.7pc of GDP, and a better fiscal record lately than France or Spain.

It is rich but it has become trapped in a “bad equilibrium” with an overvalued intra-EMU exchange rate, as a direct result of being forced to accept the Euro single currency twenty years ago, when although it did not meet the qualifying standards set by the EU itself, it was admitted thanks to creative accounting because the project was never about economic stability, but was seen a major step towards political union and a European Superstate.

<!– Source: Restricting QE to break rebel defiance in Italy is a dangerous game –>

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The rise and fall of Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel - as Jupiter
(image source: agoravox.fr” hspace=10 vspace=10>

Earlier this year the young, optimistic (rather than charismatic,) political outsider, Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France and poster boy for what we were told was the dawn of a resurgent European Union. That was then, this is now, and less than six months later, policy failures and self inflicted embarrassments such as declaring he would rule in the style of a Roman God have caused support for the former Golman Sachs banker to collapse even more rapidly that that of his predecessor in the Elysee Palace, the hapless socilist Francoise Hollande.

In the Spring of this year Macron, helped by the propanganda machines of the French establishment and the E. U. Commission comfortable defeated the anti-Brussels, anti-globalist, anti – Islamification National Front. Media coverage of the candidate projected a softer and more progressive image for the EU after its treatment of Greece had revealed the undemocratic and authoritarian nature of its power structure.

Attempts to explain the rapid decline of Macron and his government have focused on his pompous approach to governance—literally comparing his leadership to that of the Roman God Jupiter, his obsession with photo – opportunities and his defence of a lack of policy statements by airily declaring that ordinary voters could not understand the complexities of government. But there are deeper causees too. He has misdiagnosed the origins of the French economic malaise, and therefore his Jovian decrees are doing more harm than good.

It’s easy to point to the errors in the president’s perspective by merely examining the data. Macron’s economic policy cites a bloated public sector as the fundamental cause of France’s economic ills. The truly horrendous level of government debt is cited as evidence of this: as of March 2017, the debt stood at 111 percent of GDP, almost twice the 60 percent of GDP maximum allowed by the E. U’s Maastricht Treaty.

Private debt however is worse still: 187 percent of GDP, a result of easy credit and the encouragement of consumer spending to prop up an ailing economy. So, why does Macron, in common most other politicians of al parties not worry about this far higher level of debt?

The reason is he was schooled in mainstream economics. Thus Macron has been indictrinated with the idea that private debt is not relevant. It’s just a “redistribution”, according to Ben Bernanke, which “absent implausibly large differences in marginal spending propensities” between savers and lenders, “should have no significant macroeconomic effects.” The more cynical among you will recognise that as an exercise in talking bollocks.

Bernake’s belief is contradicted by the data for countries which, like France, have a private debt ratio well in excess of 100 percent of GDP. There ought to be little or no correlation between credit (the annual change in private debt) and unemployment if Bernake is correct. However, in his home country of the USA, the relationship between credit extended by the banks and unemployment since 1990 is minus 0.91: meaning the more debt people take on, the more is spent in the domestic economy. In France’s case, the correlation is lower but still substantial at minus 0.62, when according to mainstream economics, it should be close to zero.

So credit matters, not merely because savers are much less likely to consume than debtors, but because bank credit creates new money. And that is what the Macron government has faied to understand, resulting in its having focused on reducing government debt by squeezing private credit.

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Italeave or Quitaly? The EU Is Falling Apart

eurail-italy-overview-1

Italy: Too beautiful to be part of EU bureaucratic dictatorship (picture source)

Since the shock of Britain voting for ‘Brexit’ just over a year ago this blog has been speculating on which EU nation to quit the former free trade association that is being driven by Germany and the globalist elites closer and closer to becoming a single political enity, a Federal superstate (called Germany?)

Our money has always been on Italy although we hedged our bet with a wager on Hungary. And it’s starting to look as if we were correct.

Under the headline Is Italy heading for debt restructuring or euro exit? Financial newsletter Eurointelligence reports that a possible programme for Italy’s leaving the Union is already being discussed in the Italian parliament by the likely partners in a ruling coalition following the next election.

from Eurointelligence (not publicly available)

We are reporting from an important conference in Rome yesterday that has caught the Italian news headlines this morning – on the future of Italian public debt. It was organized by the Five Star Movement, held in the Italian chamber of deputies, and openly discussed issues such default mechanism inside the eurozone, sovereign debt restructuring mechanisms, parallel payment systems, and of course euro exit.

What is important about this debate is that it is now taking place in public – you can’t be more public than inside the parliament. Italians, not only the Five Star Movement, are openly talking about these issues.

One of us was on the podium, where we reiterated our criticism of the Five Star Movement’s previous-held cavalier notion of a euro referendum. The essential point we were trying to make in the debate, well reflected in this morning’s coverage by the main newspapers, is that euro exit is not a decision to be taken lightly. The announcement of a referendum would produce a financial crisis and might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Euro exit belongs to the category of things that, citing Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well It were done quickly“.

What struck us about this event was the sheer political leverage. Luigi di Maio, the presumptive Five Star candidate for the job of prime minister, seemed to distance himself from supporting euro exit. He sat through the entire 12-hour marathon of discussions. Beppe Grillo and Davide Casaleggio made short appearances. It was very clear that the Five Star Movement is now aggressively tackling the topic of Italy’s future in the eurozone, which is likely to become a major election issue. It also raises questions, as some Italian commentators did this morning, about possible coalition choices for the party if it adopts a more nuanced position on the euro.

A lot of space was given to a discussion on fiscal money – coupons issued by the state to people for use in tax payments. We recall that Yanis Varoufakis worked on a similar scheme for Greece, and one of his advisers at the time gave some details of how such a scheme can be made to work and why it did not work in Greece. The answer is that it requires an extraordinary degree of technical and logistical preparation that is outside the scope of what most governments are physically capable of.

Conferences such as these never reach consensus, but they bring up questions. One of the questions on fiscal money is whether it is sustainable or merely transitional. Is it just an instrument through which a country transitions to a new currency, or just a short-term liquidity measure, or can it work as a supplemental form of money?

Another discussion that struck us was a paper by Alberto Bagnai and Brigitte Granville, who did a stochastic simulation of the costs of euro exit. They noted that there would be an initial cost but that strong counter-cyclical growth would soon resume. The problem with this simulation is that it does not take sufficiently into account the multiple financial shocks that are likely to be dominant during such a phase. Euro exit would do major damage to the financial system both of Italy and the eurozone. The authors have a variable that includes a banking crisis, but we do not think this does justice to the financial Armageddon we are likely to see after an Italian euro exit.

And finally, we noted a comment by Heiner Flassbeck, formerly at the German finance ministry and Unctad, who noted that there can be no solution to the eurozone’s persistent crisis unless one insists on symmetric adjustment in the eurozone. He advocates the strategy that Italy should make a credible threat to leave the eurozone in order to force a German policy shift.

All of Italy’s major political parties, except for the  Democratic Party, the party of Matteo Renzi’s failed government, have flirted with supporting moves to leave the Euro. The current front runners in polls, not that polls are a predictor of outcomes, as we have learned several times recently, with only the french election reflecting polling figures and it is widely suspected that the French result was decided before a single vote was cast.

The path to Italeave is not easy, a referendum and a constitutional change will be required before any decision can be ratified, but trouble is brewing on a huge number of fronts simultaneously:

The Italian banking system is insolvent.
Another refugee crisis is brewing as flimsy, overloaded boats bring thousands of new illegal entrants every week.
Italy’s youth unemployment is a whopping 37%
The ECB is the only buyer for Italian bonds and yields are at record levels
Italy’s debt to GDP ratio is over 130% to the consternation of Eurozone officials
The global recovery still is not happening or EU members.
It is no longer taboo in Italy to talk of leaving the EU or taking back control of the nation’s borders.

Any number of things could start a chain reaction making Italeave look good to a majority of Italian voters. And despite the recent stitch up of Five Star movement in local elections, the other anti – immigration, anti – federalisation parties, Liga Nord and Forza Italia made big advances.

And when Italy goes, more will follow, at an accelerating rate we predict.

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