Greece's debt crisis tests the euro

The European Union flag is seen waving above the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

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Kai Ryssdal: If you think the United States has budget problems, I direct your attention now to Athens, Greece. Tomorrow the European Union will give its official verdict on that country's public finances. The Greeks are hoping the European Union might give them a helping hand with its debt load. The signs, though, are that the EU won't. It's more likely to prescribe some tough love, including even deeper public spending cuts.

Financial markets here and abroad will be watching tomorrow's announcement, because the Greek debt crisis has triggered the biggest test yet for the European currency, the Euro. From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: The numbers are truly awful. A budget deficit heading for 13 percent of GDP. Total national debt hurtling towards 140 percent. Hardly surprising -- says Neil MacKinnon of VTB Capital -- that investors have been dumping Greek government bonds.

NEIL MacKINNON: They're extremely worried that the Greek government is not capable of addressing the situation and that the ultimate endgame in all this could actually be a default itself.

Fear of default is contagious. It's hit the bonds of other heavily indebted eurozone governments. Those of Spain, Italy, and Portugal. This has sent the euro reeling. The single currency has fallen sharply against the U.S. dollar.

Daniel Hannan is a member of the European Parliament.

DANIEL HANNAN: What we're seeing in the low value of the euro is a question mark over whether the currency is going to survive at all.

If the euro fell apart, the European dream of having a currency to rival the greenback would disappear. But, says Graham Mather of the European Policy Forum, the U.S. wouldn't be celebrating. It would create turmoil and protectionism in Europe, the biggest market for American exports.

GRAHAM MATHER: People would be looking to their own economies first and trying to create barriers to world trade. So for U.S. policy a break-up of the eurozone would be very unwelcome indeed.

The collapse of the eurozone is still unlikely. But there is a more immediate worry for the U.S. and other government hoping to borrow large sums. Investors are growing very wary of government bonds.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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