Dutch Finance Minister on the Debt Crisis
'We Are All Threatened by Contagion'
By Christian Reiermann
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager calls on the German government to remain firm in its opposition to euro bonds. He also warns that even the fiscally solid nations of the euro zone will get into trouble if they keep having to increase the volume of the bailout fund.
SPIEGEL: Minister, an increasing number of voices in the EU are calling forto be used to end the crisis in the euro zone. Are you among these advocates?
De Jager:No, absolutely not. Euro bonds are not the solution. You cannot end a debt crisis by introducing a new form of debt. Instead, the countries concerned have to tighten up their budgets and introduce reforms to get their economies back on track. Euro bonds are no alternative -- on the contrary, they would have a perverse effect.
SPIEGEL: How so?
De Jager: Euro bonds remove every incentive for ailing countries to return to sensible fiscal and economic policies. Since they offer lower interest rates than their previous government bonds, they induce governments to run up more debt instead of saving. I call that perverse.
SPIEGEL: Even billionaire investor George Soros is calling for euro bonds. Are you saying he doesn't know what he's talking about?
De Jager: He is at least not considering the long-term repercussions of his proposal. Over the short term, euro bonds might calm the markets. But if we don't change the general conditions, five years from now we will have the next crisis, which could be even worse than the present one because even healthy countries like Germany and the Netherlands would be much more in debt.
SPIEGEL: The German government also opposes euro bonds. How long do you think it will be able to maintain this position?
De Jager: I expect the German government to stick to this position. Euro bonds may be an option over the long term, but only if all member countries of the monetary union pursue the same financial policies. We still have a long way to go before we achieve that.
SPIEGEL: The only remaining source of short-term aid is the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund, which the heads of state and government gave new powers to in late July, yet did not provide with more money. Shouldn't it be increased to remain credible?
De Jager: I'm not generally opposed to bolstering the EFSF, but even that is not a panacea. €440 billion ($632 billion) is not sparse. But if necessary, we're open to talking about it.
- De vraag is dan waarom hij dit niet zag aankomen toen de eerste hulp pakketten naar Griekenland gingen.(ik had hem toch gewaarschuwd ;-) Maar beter ten halve gekeerd........