March 2011: Emerging problems

The Irish election on 25 February, returning a government that is strongly in favour of alleviating the penal terms of the bail-out package assembled for Ireland at the end of last year, marks a watershed for Europe. March 2011 is the most important time in the unfolding European debt crisis, a month in which the European Union and the governments of the euro area are due to make concrete some of the landmark proposals for better governance that were outlined at the end of 2010. We describe the main issues under discussion, always against the background that Europe’s politicians may once again prove unwilling or unable to live up to the expectations vested in them by the indebted states and the ever-fickle financial markets. Sabre-rattling by the European Central Bank as it prepares to end the period of abnormally low interest rates ushered in by the collapse of Lehman Bros in September 2008 adds to the unpropitious nature of the environment.

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