giovedì 29 aprile 2010

Open letter to European policymakers: The Greek crisis is a European crisis and needs European solutions

Apologies for cross-postings

Dear colleagues,

Please find in the attachment and copied below an open letter to European policymakers criticising their collective failure to address the Greek crisis as a European crisis. It sets out the various causes of the Greek crisis, of which poor fiscal management by that country is only one, and points out the European dimension of the problems. In particular the problem of competitive divergences within monetary union must be addressed in a symmetrical way.

We urge you to read this open letter. If you broadly agree with its content, please manifest your support by inserting your details in the table and replying to this e-mail (

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Open letter to European policymakers: The Greek crisis is a European crisis and needs European solutions

For weeks the attention of the financial markets, media commentators and policymakers has been on the Greek crisis. Yet it has rumbled on. The Greek population is being asked to make painful cuts which will only depress incomes output and employment further, even as interest rates are driven up to crippling levels. Most recently its bonds have been declared ‘junk’ by rating agencies, which, the damaged credibility of such agencies notwithstanding, threatens to have disastrous knock-on effects. This is a disaster for Greeks, but it is also profoundly the wrong course for Europe as a whole, which needs to chart a European path out of the crisis.

We are appalled that European policymaking has systematically lagged behind events, allowing itself to be driven by volatile market sentiments, populist politicians and a media that all too often exhibits fundamental ignorance about the issues. This has dramatically raised the costs and risks of resolving the crisis.

Greece’s fiscal catastrophe has four causes. First, there is the past fiscal weakness of the Greek state, in particular the inability to generate tax revenues, as a share of GDP, in line with its European neighbours, but also inexcusable statistical manipulation. Second, Greece’s relative competitiveness has steadily worsened, especially within the euro area, as reflected in a sustained current account deficit as a result of above-average increases in unit labour costs and prices and a stronger economic growth dynamic. Third the economic crisis - which, given the country’s conservative banking sector was a classic external shock – has ravaged public finances, just as in other countries. And last but not least, fourth, the interest cost burden has dramatically increased, as genuine concerns about fiscal sustainability combined with speculation and misinformation to dramatically raise the rate of interest on new Greek government bonds.

Only the first of these reasons calls unambiguously for Greeks to accept the pain of fiscal austerity. All the others have a strong European dimension and call for European solutions. In particular, the loss of competitiveness by Greece (and a number of other countries, including Spain and Ireland) is the mirror image of an increase in relative competitiveness by others, notably Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The latter countries could not have increased their net exports without the faster demand expansion in the former group, which, it is often forgotten, were also responsible for much of Europe’s economic and jobs growth in recent years, while demand and output growth in the surplus countries has been sluggish. The problem is symmetrical and the solution must be as well.

For Greece has not – as is often claimed or implied – lagged behind Germany in raising productivity: on the contrary hourly labour productivity increased more than twice as fast in Greece than Germany during the ten years of the euro since 1999. Nor do frequent claims in the media of Greek ‘laziness’ stand up to scrutiny: average annual working hours are the longest in Europe (and hundreds of hours per year longer than in Germany!). The problem has been with nominal wage and price setting.

Due to strong differences in wage setting, Greek nominal unit labour costs increased by more than 30% since the start of EMU – and the increases in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland were even higher – whereas in Germany they rose by just 8%. Monopolistic price setting is also critical, enabling firms to pass on higher wage costs or imported prices onto domestic prices. Such wage and price divergences are not sustainable within a monetary union where exchange-rate adjustments are no longer possible. But this requires an adjustment from both ends. Wages and prices in Greece and other countries need to fall in relative terms, but they must increase faster in Germany, whose aggressive wage moderation policies are deflationary, export unemployment and threaten to explode the monetary union. This is the only way to rebalance the euro area while avoiding the huge risk of a deflationary spiral.

Misunderstanding these causes, European policymakers have fiddled while Greece has burned. Monetary policy has been left entirely out of the discussion. Fiscal support offers have been too little, too late and subject to unreasonable conditions. The EU2020 Guidelines proposed by the Commission do recognize the imbalances problem, but the proposed measures are not symmetrical. As a result speculators have driven the cost of resolving the crisis higher and higher. Lending public money to Greece, at interest, is not charity. It is a recognition of the interconnections of a monetary union and in the vital interest of all Europeans. No-one benefits from Greece and other countries embarking on massive fiscal austerity, demand deflation and competitive price deflation. This is all the more so when monetary policy is up against the zero bound and the European economy as a whole still dependent on policy stimulus. Greece must not be forced into massive demand deflation: having avoided the mistakes of the Great Depression at European level it makes no sense to repeat them at national level.

On the contrary it is in Europe’s vital interests to resolve the Greek crisis on the basis of rising incomes across the continent and to put in place the needed machinery to cope with competitive and fiscal imbalances in the future. The future of the euro area as a whole is at stake. There is a serious risk of a falling Greek domino knocking over a series of other countries. Portugal and other countries now stand where Greece was a few months ago. The economic, political and social costs would be enormous. Has Europe learnt nothing from the 1920s when Germany was, in many ways, in a similar situation to Greece today? Prevented from raising exports to service its foreign debt (reparations) by mercantilist policies, Germany embarked on a disastrous course of deflation and depression which paved the way for the horrors that followed. Today as then, deficit countries cannot simply save their way out of crisis, they must have the opportunity to grow their way out. And this is also the only way to limit the damage to surplus countries, who are otherwise also destined to lose out in terms of growth, employment and financial stability.

We call for a coordinated economic policy response around the following five elements:
  • The ECB must provide as much support as possible to the fiscal consolidation and rebalancing effort. In the short run that means committing to maintaining its base rates close to zero. Keeping interest rates low is vital to help minimise refinancing costs while pushing up the rate of nominal GDP growth. It must continue to accept Greek bonds as collateral.
  • Euro area governments should commit to meeting Greece’s needs to restructure its sovereign bonds for a three-year period. The sums involved do not require the involvement of the IMF, whose participation is only justified, if at all, by political considerations. This would immediately and drastically reduce the market interest rates to be paid on new bond issues: the rate demanded by euro area governments should be explicitly tied to the benchmark rate for German Bunds plus a penalty rate, which should be set so as to ensure the best possible chances for consolidation while avoiding future sovereign moral hazard.
  • Greece accepts enhanced supervision of its public finances and announces a longer-term fiscal consolidation package designed to have as limited negative effects on demand as possible in the short run (notably drastically reducing tax evasion), but primary fiscal surpluses in the medium run; it couples this with a time-limited freeze on wages and administered prices and policies to increase product market competition.
  • Germany, Austria and other surplus countries commit to maintain fiscal stimulus and a period of faster-than-productivity-growth wage increases; more generally, fiscal exit strategies should be coordinated within the Council to underpin area-wide economic recovery while rebalancing demand within the currency area. This requires asynchronous exit strategies. Greece and other deficit countries have to employ them earlier while the surplus countries like Germany follow later on. After the adjustment period wage policies should return to an orientation to the medium-run growth of national productivity plus the ECB’s inflation target in all countries.
  • Greece is not the only crisis country and policies are needed to prevent the crisis spreading to other vulnerable countries. The issuing of Eurobonds, possibly with a role for central bank purchases on the secondary market, should be considered to reduce financing costs. Moreover, the EU should embark on an immediate review of its various policy coordination mechanisms with a view to strengthening them and refocusing them in the direction revealed to be necessary by the crisis, namely: a symmetrical focus on surplus and deficit countries; the monitoring of private debt-savings dynamics, rather than just the public sector, and thus a focus on current account positions; incorporating wage and price setting and accordingly strengthening the role of social partners. A starting point is the proposed EU2020 Guidelines which need to be revised accordingly.

The Greek crisis is a chance to drive European integration forward to the benefit of all Europe’s citizens. But current policies, based on misperceptions of economic interlinkages and short-sighted and erroneous views on ‘national’ interests, threaten to destroy the monetary union, set back European integration and imperil its economic and political future. EMU simply cannot go on like this. We call on European policymakers to find European solutions that serve the interest of all Europe’s citizens.

mercoledì 28 aprile 2010

La Plateforme non gouvernementale Euromed dénonce l’interdiction imposée à Ameer Makhoul de quitter les Territoires palestiniens

Merci de diffuser largement /الرجاء التعميم/Please disseminate widely
Communiqué /بيان/ Release
(/النص العربي أدناهEnglish below)
La Plateforme non gouvernementale Euromed
dénonce l’interdiction imposée à Ameer Makhoul, Directeur général de l’Union des Associations Arabes (Ittijah) et Président du Comité populaire pour la défense des libertés, de quitter les Territoires palestiniens
Le jeudi 22 avril 2010 au matin, la police des frontières israélienne a interdit à Ameer Makhoul, Directeur général de l’Union des Associations Arabes (Ittijah) et Président du Comité populaire pour la défense des libertés, de se rendre en Jordanie. Ces forces lui ont remis sur le champ un ordre administratif émis par le ministre israélien de l’intérieur lui interdisant de quitter le pays pendant une durée de deux mois, prétextant pour cela que le voyage de Ameer Makhoul « constitue un danger pour la sécurité de l’Etat ». Cette mesure est prise sans qu’aucune preuve ne soit retenue contre lui et s’appuie sur le régime des mesures d’urgences qui datent de 1948.
Nous, à la Plateforme non gouvernementale Euromed, condamnons la politique des Autorités israéliennes et leurs pratiques à l’encontre des activistes civils et des acteurs locaux et internationaux, et dénonçons les mesures opprimantes infligées au Directeur général de l’Union des Associations arabes (Ittijah) et Président du Comité populaire pour la défense des libertés. Les mesures prises à son encontre ne sont qu’une tentative de réprimer l’action civile palestinienne et constituent une violation des droits fondamentaux de mobilité et d’expression des individus. De plus, elles contredisent l’engagement des Etats pour le respect des principes du Partenariat euro-méditerranéen et de la Politique européenne du voisinage.
Nous affirmons notre soutien à l’action civile en générale et exprimons notre solidarité avec notre collègue Ameer Makhoul et l’Union des Associations arabes (Ittijah), membre de la Plateforme non gouvernementale Euromed.
(La Plateforme non gouvernementale Euromed est une coalition de plus de cent réseaux et plateformes régionaux et nationaux en Europe et autour de la Méditerranée).

Communiqué /بيان/ Release
منبر المنظمات غير الحكومية الأورومتوسطي
يدين منع أمير مخول مدير عام اتحاد الجمعيات العربية ورئيس اللجنة الشعبية للدفاع عن الحريات من مغادرة الأراضي الفلسطينية
قامت شرطة الحدود الإسرائيلية صباح اليوم الخميس 22/4/2010 بمنع أمير مخول مدير عام اتحاد الجمعيات العربية ورئيس اللجنة الشعبية للدفاع عن الحريات من عبور الحدود إلى الأردن، وعلى الفور سلمته عناصر الأمن أمرا إداريا صادرا عن وزير الداخلية الإسرائيلي يمنعه من مغادرة البلاد لمدة شهرين، مبررا ذلك بأن سفر مخول إلى خارج البلاد "يشكل خطرا على أمن الدولة" وذلك دون الإدلاء بأية أدلّة بل اعتمادا على أنظمة الطوارئ من العام 1948.
نحن في منبر المنظمات غير الحكومية الأورومتوسطية نستنكر سياسة السلطات الإسرائيلية وممارساتها بحق نشطاء العمل الأهلي والفاعلين محليا ودوليا، وندين الإجراء القمعي بحق مدير عام اتحاد الجمعيات العربية ورئيس اللجنة الشعبية للدفاع عن الحريات السيد أمير مخول، وهذا الإجراء ما هو إلا محاولة لقمع العمل الأهلي الفلسطيني وخرق الحقوق الأساسية للأفراد في حرية التنقل والتعبير. وتتناقض مع التزام الدول بمبادئ اتفاقية الشراكة الأورومتوسطية وسياسة الجوار الأوروبية.
كما ونؤكد دعمنا للعمل الأهلي عامة وتضامننا مع الزميل أمير مخول واتحاد الجمعيات العربية، عضو منبر المنظمات غير الحكومية الأورومتوسطي.
(منبر المنظمات غير الحكومية الأورومتوسطي هو تحالف من أكثر من مائة من كبرى الشبكات والاتحادات الإقليمية والوطنية في أوروبا وحوض المتوسط).

Communiqué /بيان/ Release
The Euro-Mediterranean Non-Governmental Platform
Denounces travel ban imposed on Ameer Makhoul, General Director of the Union of Arab Associations (Ittijah) and President of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Freedoms, preventing him from leaving the Palestinian territories
On Thursday, 22 April 2010, the Border Police in the Israeli Border with Jordan has banned Mr. Ameer Makhoul, General Director of the Union of Arab Associations (Ittijah) and President of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Freedoms, to pass the border to Jordan and has immediately delivered him an administrative order issued by the Minister of Interior banning him from leaving the country for two months. The Minister justifies the order by the fact that Mr. Makhoul’s travel abroad “constitutes a danger to the state’s security”, without bringing any evidence and relying on the Emergency Regulations from 1948 instead.
We, at the Euro-Mediterranean Non-Governmental Platform, condemn the Israeli authorities’ policy and practices against civil activists and local and international actors, and we condemn the oppressing measure taken against the General Director of the Union of Arab Associations (Ittijah) and President of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Freedoms, Mr. Ameer Makhoul. In fact, this measure is just an attempt to oppress the civil Palestinian action and constitutes a violation of individuals’ fundamental freedoms of mobility and expression. As well it contradicts the states’ commitments to the principles of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership’s agreement and the European Neighborhood Policy.
As well, we confirm our support to civil action in general and our solidarity with our colleague Ameer Makhoul and the Union of Arab Associations (Ittijah), member of the Euro-Mediterranean Non-Governmental Platform.
(The Euro-Mediterranean Non-Governmental Platform is a coalition of more than 100 regional and national networks and platforms in Europe and the Mediterranean).
Plateforme Euromed/Euromed Platform/ المنبر الأورومتوسطي
80, rue de Paris
93100 Montreuil-sous-Bois
Tél. +33 1 42 87 28 64
Fax +33 1 48 70 14 29

lunedì 26 aprile 2010

il Quaderno di Saramago - Un capitolo per il “Vangelo”

Pubblicato in quaderno di Saramago da massimolafronza il 24 luglio 2009

di José Saramago

Su di me si dev’essere detto che dopo la morte di Gesù mi sono pentita di quelli che chiamavano i miei infami peccati di prostituta e mi sono convertita in penitente per il resto della mia vita, e questo non è vero. Mi hanno innalzato nuda sugli altari, coperta solo dai capelli che mi scendono fino alle ginocchia, con i seni marci e la bocca sdentata, e se è ovvio che gli anni passati hanno finito per rinsecchire la liscia morbidezza della mia pelle, è successo solo perché a questo mondo nulla può prevalere sul tempo, non perchè io avessi disprezzato e offeso lo stesso corpo che Gesù ha desiderato e posseduto. Chi ha detto quelle falsità contro di me non sa nulla dell’amore. Ho smesso di essere una prostituta il giorno in cui Gesù è entrato in casa mia portando con sé la ferita al piede perché io la curassi, ma di questi prodotti dell’uomo che chiamano peccati di lussuria io non dovrei pentirmi affatto se è stato come prostituta che mi ha conosciuta il mio amore e, avendo provato il mio corpo e saputo quello di cui vivevo, non mi ha voltato le spalle. Quando davanti a tutti i discepoli Gesù mi baciava una e più volte, loro gli chiedevano perché amasse me tanto più che loro, e Gesù rispondeva: “Da cosa dipende che io non vi ami tanto quanto amo lei?” Loro non sapevano cosa dire perché mai sarebbero stati in grado di amare Gesù con lo stesso assoluto amore con cui io lo amavo. Dopo la morte di Lazzaro, la disperazione e la tristezza di Gesù furono tali che, una notte, sotto le lenzuola che copriva le nostre nudità, io gli ho detto: “Non posso raggiungerti dove sei perché ti sei chiuso dietro una porta impossibile da aprire con forze umane”, e lui ha risposto, lamento e gemito animale che si è nascosto per soffrire: “Anche se non puoi entrare, non ti allontanare da me, tieni sempre stesa la tua mano anche quando non potrai vedermi, se non lo farai mi dimenticherò della vita, o lei mi dimenticherà”. E quando alcuni giorni dopo, Gesù si era ricongiunto con i suoi discepoli, io, che camminavo al suo lato, gli ho detto: “Guarderò la tua ombra se non vorrai che guardi te”, e lui ha risposto: “Voglio trovarmi dove si trova la mia ombra se è lì che saranno i tuoi occhi”. Ci amavamo e ci scambiavamo parole come queste, non solo perché belle e vere, se è possibile che una cosa sia l’una e l’altra allo stesso tempo, ma perché avevamo il presentimento che il tempo delle ombre stesse arrivando ed era necessario che cominciassimo ad abituarci, ancora da uniti, all’oscurità dell’assenza definitiva. Ho visto Gesù resuscitato e in un primo momento mi è sembrato che quell’uomo fosse il giardiniere del suo tumulo, ma oggi so che non lo vedrò mai dagli altari su cui mi hanno messa, per quanto possano essere alti, per quanto possano essere vicini al cielo, per quanti fiori e profumi li possano adornare. Non è la morte che ci ha separati, ci ha separati per sempre la stessa eternità. In quel periodo, abbracciati l’uno all’altra, unite le nostre bocche nello spirito e nella carne, né Gesù era allora quello che di lui si diceva, né io ero quello per cui mi schernivano. Gesù, con me, non è stato il Figlio di Dio, e io, con lui, non sono stata la prostituta Maria Maddalena, siamo stati soltanto quell’uomo e questa donna, tutti e due tremanti d’amore e su cui incombeva il mondo come un avvoltoio sbavante sangue. Hanno detto alcuni che Gesù avesse eliminato sette demoni dalle mia interiora, ma anche questo non è vero. Quello che Gesù ha fatto, invece, è stato svegliare i sette angeli che dormivano nella mia anima in attesa che lui arrivasse a chiedermi cure: “Aiutami”. Sono stati gli angeli che gli hanno curato il piede, sono stati loro che hanno guidato le mie mani tremolanti e hanno ripulito dal pus la ferita, sono stati loro che mi hanno messo sulle labbra la domanda senza la quale Gesù non avrebbe potuto aiutare me: “Sai quello che sono, quello che faccio, di cosa vivo”, e lui ha risposto :”Lo so”, “Non hai dovuto guardare e già sapevi tutto”, e lui ha risposto: “Non so niente”", e io ho insistito: “Che sono una prostituta”, “Questo lo so”, “Che vado a letto con uomini per denaro”, “Sì”, “Allora sai tutto di me” e lui, con voce tranquilla, come la superficie liscia di un lago mormorato, ha detto: “So soltanto questo”. Allora io non sapevo che si trattasse del figlio di Dio, né tantomeno immaginavo che Dio potesse volere un figlio, ma, in quell’istante, con la luce illuminante della comprensione dello spirito, ho capito che solamente un vero Figlio dell’Uomo avrebbe potuto pronunciare quelle tre semplici parole: “So soltanto questo”. Siamo rimasti a guardarci, non ci siamo neanche accorti che a quell’ora gli angeli erano già andati via, e da quel momento in poi, nelle parole e nel silenzio, nelle notte e nel giorno, nel sole e nella luna, nella presenza e nell’assenza, ho cominciato a dire a Gesù chi io fossi, e mi mancava ancora molto per arrivare al punto più profondo di me stessa quando l’hanno ammazzato. Sono Maria Maddalena e ho amato. Non c’è altro da aggiungere.