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European Debt Crisis

Europe pledges to control spending

David Brancaccio Dec 9, 2011

The new European pledge – the one European leaders hammered out in the wee hours of this morning – will go something like this: [raise your right hand]: “I promise to keep my country’s budget deficit under control. I also promise to let the European Court of Justice scrutenize laws in my country that may allow too much wiggle room on deficit spending.”

It’s a major step toward ending that continent’s two-year-long debt crisis. What it’s not is a financial howitzer or any other device that could blast new money on the problem.

Jennifer McKeown is a senior European economist at Capital Economics in London. She says the agreement reached in the early hours this morning is too long term to be a bazooka. Yes, governments will be subject to much stricter regulations regarding their future borrowing. But, that’s for the future, as in 10 years or 20 years from now.

The problem is that without injecting some serious cash into the struggling economies now, these countries won’t make it that long. There’s also a need to address the fundamental problems, including why the “profligate” countries (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, etc) got into so much debt in the first place.

In the end, even McKeown acknowledges European Union leaders (minus the UK) have accomplished something significant today. She says it just may be too little, too late to keep the eurozone intact. She anticipates Greece and maybe two other countries will leave the eurozone in the next year.

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