The Corner

After the Earthquake

All is not peace and harmony in Italy.

Hopes that Bersani’s center-left grouping will at least be able to form an ad hoc coalition with M5S seem to be being sunk by tweet. Grillo is now busily tweeting that Bersani is a “dead man talking” and a “political stalker.”  Meanwhile, Italy’s president has called off a meeting with Peer Steinbruck, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, after Steinbruck attacked both Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi as “clowns.”  

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard adds some calmer perspective (insofar as he is ever calm). Do read it all, but here’s what’s key:

The great fear is that the European Central Bank (ECB) will find it impossible to prop up the Italian bond market under its Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) scheme if there is no coalition in Rome willing or able to comply with the tough conditions imposed by the EU at Berlin’s behest. Europe’s rescue strategy could start to unravel. Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, said: “What has happened in these elections is of seismic importance.

“The ECB rescue depends on countries doing what they are told. That has now been torn asunder by domestic politics in Italy….”

Bond buying under the OMT can begin only after countries in trouble request a rescue from the EU’s bail-out fund under strict terms. This then requires a vote in the Bundestag…Germany’s ECB board member, Jorg Asmussen, backed the plan when it was unveiled in August, signalling the crucial acquiescence of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The concern is that Germany could withdraw that assent if provoked.

Mr Roberts said: “The big unknown is how much Germany is going to buckle over the next six months. German leaders want to keep up the appearance that the eurozone crisis has been solved, at least until their elections in September.”

Basically, everyone has got to keep pretending even harder for the next six months, after which point German taxpayers can be betrayed for good. The problem is that what will be  said and done in Italy over the next few months may make that pretense impossible, and if that happens, then what?

Meanwhile, over in France (EUObserver reports):

Unemployment in France has hit a 15-year high, reports AFP. The number of people out of work increased by 43,000 in January. There are now 3.16 million without jobs, an 10.7 percent increase compared to the same month last year. The figures are the worst on record since 1997.

And in Greece (via the Guardian):

Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries. Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country. More than 200 medicinal products are affected, including treatments for arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, anaesthetics and immunomodulators used to treat bowel disease.  

Separately, it was announced on Tuesday that the Swiss Red Cross was slashing its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time….

Chemists in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense.

The vampire currency just keeps on taking, doesn’t it?  The real “clowns” are those that designed it, those that introduced it, those that signed up for it, those that cheered it on, those that managed it and those that continue to support it in its current form.

Compared with those jokers, Beppe Grillo is George Washington.

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