Jonathan Portes: Eurozone recovery was imminent two years ago
The EU commissioner for economic affairs brings us good news:
Since last spring, Greece has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to economic stabilisation – one certain to yield lasting returns. Spain is now also pursuing a broad reform agenda…. Europe’s recovery in the real economy has taken hold and is becoming self-sustaining.
So the commission’s strategy is working, it seems.
Except those quotes aren’t from Olli Rehn’s most recent article on your Comment page (“Austerity is working – Europe must stay the course”, December 11, 2012). They are from his article of two years ago: “New reforms can break Europe’s debt cycle”, January 11, 2011.
In this week’s piece, he said:
There is light at the end of the tunnel ... confidence is returning ... we need to stay the course ...
What about the realities of actual economic developments in the eurozone over the last two years? If Mr Rehn had changed a couple of dates, he could probably have saved himself the trouble of writing a new article and simply resubmitted the old one.
What has actually happened in the intervening period? Unemployment in both Spain and Greece has risen to over 25 per cent. Even in Latvia, the commission’s favourite “success story”, where growth has returned, the falls in unemployment (from a very high level) have largely been the result of mass emigration; employment in Latvia remains about 20 per cent below its pre-crisis peak.
To quote Tacitus: “Solitudinem faciunt et pacem appellant.”