In New Year’s speeches and congratulatory comments, leaders across the region are crediting fresh rounds of painful austerity, a hard-fought new role for the European Central Bank and steps toward deeper integration with achieving a breakthrough.
Borrowing costs for troubled nations, they note, have come down steadily from last year’s dangerously high levels, pulling a string of countries back from the brink of imminent financial collapse and defying naysayers who predicted a quick breakup of the euro zone last year.
Yet any suggestion of victory in Europe may be viewed as the economic equivalent of President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on Iraq aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003. Though market panic over Europe is subsiding, the region appears to be simply trading a crisis of financial markets for one rooted in its ailing economies.
Confronting the reality of deep budget cuts, higher taxes and piles of debt that have hindered any prospect of recovery, Italy, Spain and Greece are battling what economists predict will be yet another year of brutal recession.