Greece Slides Into The “Fourth World” – The Full Photo Album

With Greek government bonds at multi-year highs (up 300% in the last year), the Athens Stock Index still up 100% in the last year, and leaders all over the Euro-zone proclaiming the crisis is over (and that Greece has “made big strides”); we thought it perhaps useful to look at the reality behind the propagandized talk and manipulation. The sad truth is Greece is rapidly dissolving into a ‘fourth world’ nation with unemployment rates (broad and youth) at unprecedented levels, poverty widespread, and homelessness rife. Perhaps, as Germany today stated that there will be no more debt reduction for Greece, it is ‘math’ in the first image that the TROIKA and the Greek representatives should pay special attention to…

By Tyler Durden zerohedge.com via Reuters

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40-year-old Yiorgos, who became homeless in 2010 after his grocery shop went out of business, sleeps outdoors in central Athens February 3, 2013.

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42-year-old Alexandros, from Serres in northern Greece, sits in the abandoned car he lives in, at the port of Piareus near Athens April 10, 2013. Alexandros owned a plant shop in Athens until 2010, when it was forced to close, he became homeless soon after.

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Homeless people sleep outdoors in central Athens April 14, 2013.

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A homeless scrap collector sleeps outside in central Athens May 26, 2013.

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Stephanos became homeless in late 2012 when the clothes shop, where he had worked for over a decade, closed down and he had no income to pay for his flat. He now lives next to a church in central Athens and eats in soup kitchens. Stephanos smokes a cigarette as he sits on a rug in central Athens May 16, 2013.

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36-year-old unemployed clerk Michael sits in the sun near a bridge in central Athens May 24, 2013. Michael worked as a hotel clerk for over fifteen years but when the hotel closed he was unable to find work and in late 2011 became homeless, two months later he was diagnosed with lymph node and thyroid cancer. He now lives outside a church.

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51-year-old Romanian truck driver Adrian, who lost his job in 2010 when the lorry company he was working for closed down, sits with his head in his hands in central Athens January 18, 2013. Adrian survives by collecting scrap and lives in an abandoned warehouse in Athens central vegetable market.

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50-year-old Giorgos sits with his belongings under a bridge, where he lives with a group of other homeless people, in central Athens May 25, 2013. Giorgos was forced to close down the billiard hall he owned in 2006, and spent time in prison for not paying his social security debts.

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MONEY FLED FROM CYPRUS: A Furious Cyprus Begins Investigating Who Breached The Capital Controls

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By Tyler Durden, Zerohedge

On Monday we reported the very disturbing news that despite the ongoing liquidity blockade, capital controls and (somewhat) closed Cyprus banks, one particular group of people – the very same group targeted to prompt this whole ludicrous collapse of the island nation – Russian Oligrachs had found ways to bypass the ringfence and pull their money out quickly and quietly. We said that, if confirmed, “If we were Cypriots at this point we would be angry. Very, very angry.” Turns out the Cypriots did become angry, and the questions are finally starting. As Spiegel reports, the Cypriot Parliament, which may or may not last too long once the banks reopen tomorrow and the people realize that in a fractional reserve banking system, those deposits you thought were there… they are gone, poof, has begun investigating the capital flight that may means the destruction of Cyprus has been for nothing. Sadly, it is now too little, too late.

From Spiegel:

Banks have been closed and accounts frozen in Cyprus recently. Nevertheless, large amounts were moved out of the country’s crippled financial institutions on the eve of the bailout package. Lawmakers are suspicious and are investigating both the government and the Cypriot central bank.

Panicos Demetriades looked dead tired as he opened the press conference on Tuesday afternoon on the fourth floor of the Central Bank of Cyprus. The questions and answers flew back and forth for 90 minutes, with Finance Minister Michalis Sarris doing his best to back up the central bank head. Outside, the mountains slowly receded from view behind into a haze, while inside journalists became increasingly restive. When the session ended, many were left wondering why Demetriades had invited them in the first place. He had virtually nothing new to say.

Many interpreted the press conference as a symbolic exercise. Central bank head Demetriades, they felt, sought to stage a show of strength to counter the pressure that has been heaped on his shoulders in recent days. For one, he announced earlier this week, without consulting the Cypriot government first, that small banks in the country would open their doors again on Tuesday, in contrast to the island-nation’s two largest financial institutions Laiki and Bank of Cyprus. The result was a massive protest from the smaller banks and a reversal. The banks stayed closed. For the moment, the opening date is set for Thursday, and many fear that a flood of angry customers could overwhelm the sector.

Then, on Monday, the central bank announced that it was installing financial manager Dinos Christofides as a special consultant to the Bank of Cyprus as it prepares to take on assets from Laiki, which is to be liquidated. The deployment of Christofides is legitimate, but it triggered widespread concerns that the Bank of Cyprus too may soon be broken up. Demetriades was accused of not doing enough to explain the steps he was taking, thus intensifying investor anxiety.

Most of all, though, the central bank head has been harshly criticized due to the suspicious capital flight from Laiki and the Bank of Cyprus, the two institutions that have been hit hardest by the Cypriot banking crisis. There are indications that large sums flowed out of the two banks just before the first bailout package was signed in the early morning hours of March 16. At the end of January, some 40 percent of all savings held in Cypriot accounts were on the books of those two banks. Since then, however, much of it has been transferred elsewhere, despite orders from the central bank that accounts at the two institutions be frozen.

‘Special Payments’

The central bank now stands accused of not doing enough to control the movement of capital. Transfers for humanitarian aid were permitted which, while certainly an acceptable exception, opened a loophole for abuse. Many are also furious that the bank allowed “special payments,” the definition of which was never adequately established.

The Cypriot central bank has defended itself by saying that it was impossible to completely prevent all transactions, despite the account freeze. Much of the money was withdrawn from overseas, where Cyprus had no authority. Branches of Cypriot banks in non-euro-zone countries such as Russia and Britain do not answer to the European Central Bank. Their liquidity is controlled by central banks in those countries.

Such a defense is nothing less than a voluntary admission of impotence. Holders of smaller savings accounts have been unable to access much of their money for almost two weeks, companies have been unable to pay their suppliers and across the country people are concerned that their salaries will not arrive on schedule on the first of the month. Meanwhile, rich businesspeople and those with connections overseas have been able to transfer their money into foreign accounts.

In other words, the Cypriots are, indeed, getting very angry. And soon, they may just have a list of people on whom to take it out:

Lawmakers have demanded that the central bank assemble a list of those customers who withdrew large amounts of money prior to the closure of the country’s financial institutions. In particular, parliamentarians want to know if central bank employees or members of the government received early warning and were able to quickly rescue their assets.

According to the Greek television station Mega Channel, the list has already found its way into the hands of Parliament President Yannakis Omirou. No one in parliament or in the central bank could be reached for comment on Tuesday evening. Still, the parliamentary investigation indicates just how great the mistrust is between lawmakers and the government — and how acute the doubts are as to Panicos Demetriades’ competence.

Only now is Panicos’ competence being questioned? Well better late then never.

Perhaps, a better question is how much longer will the rule of law remain in Cyprus once full blown class warfare is unleashed, and the 99% are generously handed the list of the 1% who were “informed” enough to pull their money from the flaming sovereign equivalent of Bernie Madoff, while every other uninsured depositor is facing losses of up to 80%, and soon 100%?

And what happens if the realization dawns that despite all the promises even insured investors will eventually get impaired once the money runs out?

The Banker’s New Greek Strategy: Starve them into Compliance

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By Soren Dreier, Zen-Haven

The news from Athens continues to bleak over the past few weeks. A 90 year old mother and her 60 year old son jumped to their deaths off on apartment building (See Ekarthimeini article here).

A 62 year old pensioner hung himself off of a tree on the outskirts of Nikaia (See Athens News article here). Migrants are being attacked and are desperate to leave the country. Pharmacists are now refusing the government benefits card and demanding cash only for life saving drugs because they fear not being paid in Euros by the Greek bureaucracy, as payments are already many months behind in reimbursements.

Sadly, soup lines are the longest since the end of World War II as the middle class has fallen into dire straits of poverty, forcing dumpster diving by parents and children around the nation.

Even with all of this hardship, the banksters of Brussels and Berlin have noted the anger and frustration of the Greek electorate and fear a victory by the anti-austerity forces but attempting to force the gyro (they’re out of turnips) to bleed is a field of expertise that the financial industry is unfortunately well known for.

The bankers have elected to engage in a new strategy and it will create a humanitarian crisis unseen on the Continent since the siege of Sarajevo and the misery of the Soviet occupation: Starve the Greeks into voting for compliance with austerity.

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Spain Will Exit The Eurozone First—This Year

By Gonzalo Lira

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In the LiraSPG Scenario “When The Euro Breaks”, I discussed what would happen to the euro and the eurozone when those countries—unable to continue under their massive debt burdens—began exiting the European monetary union.

One of the assumptions I made was that one of the smaller nations of the eurozone would leave the monetary union first, thereby encouraging one of the bigger nations to follow their example and leave as well. I postulated that the small country would likely be Greece, and that the large country would probably be Spain.

From this exodus, I analyzed what would happen to the euro vis-à-vis gold and the rest of the world’s currencies—namely, that the euro would suffer a staggered loss of value against commodities and other currencies: An initial drop-and-recovery when the smaller nation exited the eurozone, followed by a sustained drop when the big nation exited the monetary union.

The Scenario was written and published on the LiraSPG site in May 2011.

Since then, I have changed my mind: I no longer think that a small country will exit the eurozone first, followed by one of the bigger countries.

I now think that Spain will exit the eurozone first—precipitously and without warning—and that the impact on the euro will be much more sudden and dramatic than I had earlier thought.

In this SPG Supplement, I will explain my thinking. First I will discuss the general European situation; then the Greek debacle, and how the European leadership has lost sight of what salvaging Greece was supposed to be about; then the current Spanish situation, how it is unsustainable, and how the new Rajoy government’s only escape—politically and economically—is to default and then exit the eurozone.

Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

There has nominally been major changes in the European political situation since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008—which in fact have proven to be minor: To wit, the Italian, Spanish, Irish, Portuguese and Greek governments have been replaced by the opposition, and the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy looks like it will fall in this coming May’s elections. Of the replacement governments, the Italian, Greek and Portuguese are dominated by “technocrats”—that is, austerity hawks that will genuflect to Brussels’ and Frankfurt’s desire for the debtor countries to pay every last pfennig back to the bond holders.

Excuse me, did I say “pfennig”? I meant “euro cent”.

I can prove quite easily that the political “change” has been totally cosmetic because the economic prescriptions remain the same: On the one hand, austerity for the smaller countries (Greece, Portugal, Ireland), coupled with surreptitious bank bailouts by the European Central Bank (ECB) via Long Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO).

Keep on doing’ the same thing, you’re gonna get the same results: Since May 2011, Europe-wide unemployment has increased, to 10.8% across the eurozone; sovereign debt levels have increased both nominally, to €14.8 trillion ($18.35 trillion), and as a percentage of gross domestic product, to 113% of GDP; growth has slowed to a crawl in the big economies of the zone, with France projected to grow 0.7% in 2012 and Germany projected to grow 0.8%; while the economies of the smaller countries have been and will continue to shrink, with Italy projected to be flat in 2012 and Spain to shrink by 1.5% to 2.5%.

Why Greece Used To Matter

Everyone has been paying attention to Greece for so long—and all the European bureacrats have been trying to save Greece from sovereign insolvency for so long—that everyone has forgotten why Greece mattered.

But as I said in the Scenario, saving Greece does not matter in and of itself: After all, it’s tiny—less than 2% of the total GDP of the eurozone.

Saving Greece mattered—past tense—as a sign to the rest of the eurozone and to the financial markets that the European bureacrats—namely the ECB, the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—were willing and able to guarantee the sovereign debt of all the members of the Eurozone.

The European monetary union never explicitly stated that all the eurozone nations would back up the sovereign debt of any of the member nations. This collective guarantee was tacitly assumed—but never explicitly agreed upon.

When Greece got into trouble with its sovereign debt, the idea was to salvage it not because Greece was a large piece of the eurozone, but as a sign that the eurocrats would honor the tacit promise.

In other words, saving Greece was never an end in itself—it was just a symbol.

Saving Greece was also supposed to scare away the bond vigilantes and anyone else who might think that the sovereign debt of any of the eurozone members was vulnerable to financial rape and pillage.

We saw how that all worked out: The failure of the ECB-EC-IMF Troika to “fix” Greece between 2010 and 2012 wasn’t just a political embarrassment. It undermined the markets’ belief that the eurocrats knew what they’re doing. They quite obviously don’t.

It doesn’t matter that—finally, at the last second—the Troika sort-of saved Greece: The impression remains that they’re the Gang That Can’t Salvage Straight. And the impression is accurate: If they did know what they were doing, they would have solved Greece back in May of 2010—completely and definitively—and we wouldn’t still be talking about Greece.

But we are. Which means that now, we’re also talking about other, bigger countries—
__like Spain.

Spain’s in Trouble

Spain’s GDP in 2011 was €1.05 trillion (US$1.33 trillion). In 2012, as previously mentioned, the general consensus is that it will shrink by between 1.5% and perhaps as much as 2.5%; a figure of –1.75% seems reasonable.

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Protests in Spain.

Unemployment in Spain is 24%. Youth unemployment (under 24 years old) is a shocking 53%. Both figures will rise during 2012 as the economy continues to contract. An unemployment of 30% by year’s end is within the realm of the possible. Hell, within the realm of the likely, even.

Total government debt is projected to be 79.8% of GDP in 2012—that is, €800 billion. Much more troublingly, the debt last year was “only” €680 billion—but that was still 21% higher than in 2010. So at this rate—assuming the status quo remains unchanged, and without factoring in the contraction of GDP—in 2013 the projected Spanish government debt could well rise to 90% of GDP.

(Throughout this Supplement, when discussing “government debt”, I am referring both to Madrid’s and to the autonomous regions’ consolidated debt situation.)

Private debt is an additional 75% of GDP—and let’s not even start talking about the delinquency rates—while the banks have a capital shortfall estimated at a mere €78 billion.

On top of all this—as if “all this” weren’t bad enough—is the issue of the outstanding Spanish debt—

—the nub of the problem.

Spain has redemptions totalling €149 billion in 2012. It will issue a total of €186, with an eye to extend the maturity of the outstanding debt. But even with these concerted efforts, in 2012, the maturity of Spanish debt will in fact shrink from 6.4 years to 6.2 years. Add to that, in 2011, interest payments totaled €28.8 billion—up from €22.1 billion the year before. Why? Because of rising bond yields: Spain is considered riskier—due to the Troika’s inability to finally “fix” Greece and Spain’s own obvious domestic financial issues—and thus Spain has to pay more to borrow money.

In other words, Spain has fallen into the classic “borrowed-short-but-my-income-is-long-and-on-top-of-that-my-loans-are-getting-more-expensive” trap.

Last week, April 4, Spain’s Treasury held a bond auction—and fuck-all was it nasty: Of the expected €2.5 to €3.6 billion, Spain barely managed to get bids for €2.6 billion—and the yield on the 10-year spiked to 5.85%, before settling at a still-way-high 5.75%.

Worldwide markets all got down on this auction—

—but here’s the thing: Spain has a lot more of these auctions coming up—on average one every two weeks.

They have to raise €186 billion in 2012.

And of the first of these, they had a quasi-failed auction.

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Now even the eurozone admits it has condemned Greece to never-ending austerity

By Jeremy Warner The Telegraph

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There’s a general view out there that with private creditors having agreed their 50pc haircut, the “Greek problem” has been solved, at least for now. Unfortunately, it has not.

According to Reuters, an unpublished “Compliance Report” by EU executives has concluded that Greece will have to impose a further fiscal squeeze in 2013/14 amounting to some 5.5pc of GDP in order to meet the targets that underpin the second international bailout. The chances of Greece being able to do this are about zero, though that is my conclusion, not that of the report.

According to the report, the austerity measures already adopted by Athens should be enough to bring the primary deficit down to the agreed 1.5pc this year. However, “current projections reveal large fiscal gaps in 2013-14”. The projected shortfall is reckoned to be about 5.5pc of GDP. All this, of course, assumes that Greece achieves the output levels forecast by the Troika, the chances of which are again about zero. So infact, the required squeeze will be even larger, further undermining growth and digging an even deeper hole.
Unabashed, the report states that “substantial additional expenditure cuts will have to be announced and adopted by Greece in the coming months, in particular when Greece updates its medium-term budget in May 2012”.

Where is Greece expected to find these cuts? Further savings in welfare payments, pharmaceutical spending, defense and restructuring of central and local administration are said to be under discussion. Has anyone told the Greek electorate, which is due to go the polls next month, about this? Apparently not.
Menacingly, the report adds that continuation of international financial assistance can only be expected if policy implementation improves.

A second bailout from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund worth €130bn was finally agreed on Monday, which in theory should keep Athens financed through to the end of 2014. However, the money is to he drip fed, with later tranches dependent on meeting the troika programme. Spain has had its deficit target for this year reduced, so the eurozone has shown itself to be flexible. But Spain isn’t in the programme. The treatment meted out to those in receipt of financial assistance may be somewhat harsher.
This is what Citigroup had to say about developments in a note published on Tuesday morning:

With the last night’s decision, the 2nd Greek bailout package is finally on its way. However, in order to get the full disbursement of this package Greece has to implement the requested austerity measures and structural reforms, which will be monitored on a quarterly basis by the Troika. Given Greece’s poor track record on implementing such measures and particularly in view of the uncertainty over whether a new Greek government (after the election, which probably will take place at the end of April/early May) will go ahead with these measures, it is very uncertain if Greece will meet the Troika requests and will get the full programme funding. Taking into account large extra liabilities in 2012, as recently reported by the IMF, and because our expectations for economic growth for Greece are much weaker than the Troika’s, the expected debt-to-GDP ratio of 117% for 2020 looks far too optimistic to us. As a consequence, we continue to expect further debt restructuring in Greece at a later stage and see the probability of Greece leaving the euro area at around 50%.

Actually, I’d put the chances at way above 50pc. The only question is when. Regrettably, it looks as if the whole miserable mess is going to keep us in column inches for quite a few more months yet.

The great euro Putsch rolls on as two democracies fall

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

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Crowds gathered outside the Italian presidential palace after Silvio Berlusconi resigned on Saturday.
Photo: GETTY

Europe’s scorched-earth policies have begun in earnest. The inherent flaws of monetary union have created a crisis of such gravity that EU leaders now feel authorized to topple two elected governments.

As I long feared, the flood of cheap credit into Southern Europe and the slow death of Club Med industry by currency asphyxiation have together created such a dangerous situation for world finance that informed opinion is willing to turn a blind eye to EU sovereign trespass. Some even applaud.

The Greeks were ordered to drop their referendum on measures that reduce their country to a sort of Manchukuo, with EU commissars “on the ground”, installed in each ministry, drawing up lists of state assets to be liquidated to pay foreign creditors.

Europe had the monetary and fiscal means to contain the EMU debt crisis long enough for Greeks to give or withhold their crucial assent to this ultimatum in December.

It chose – under German-Dutch pressure – not deploy those means. Instead it forced Greece to capitulate by cutting off an agreed loan payment.

In Italy, the European Central Bank has engineered the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi by playing the bond markets, switching purchases on and off to enforce compliance with its written dictates (“La Lettera”), and ultimately allowing 10-year yields to spike to 7.45pc to drive him out.

Europe’s president Herman Van Rompuy swooped in to Rome to clinch the Putsch. “Italy needs reforms not elections,” he said.

We are not that far from use of EU judicial coercion, and then EU police power, and ultimately EU “border troops” – for those old enough to remember Soviet methods of fraternal assistance.

Chancellor Angela Merkel tells us that peace in Europe can no longer be taken for granted, and she is right. Her own Gothic actions and her inflexible imposition of 1930s Gold Standard contraction and debt-deflation on Southern Europe is itself preparing the ground for Europe’s civil war (hopefully pacific), a rebellion by the South against the North.

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European Central Bank Also Plots the End of the EU

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Mario Draghi new European Central Bank President. From 1984 to 1990 he was Executive Director of the World Bank. In 1991, he became director general of the Italian Treasury, and held this office until 2001. During his time at the Treasury, he chaired the committee that revised Italian corporate and financial legislation and drafted the law that governs Italian financial markets. He is also a former board member of several banks and corporations (Eni, IRI,BNL and IMI).

Draghi was then vice chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs International and a member of the firm-wide management committee (2002–2005). A controversy existed on his duties while employed at Goldman Sachs. Pascal Canfin (MEP) asserted Draghi was involved in swaps for European governments, namely Greece, trying to disguise their countries’ economic status. Draghi responded that the deals were “undertaken before my joining Goldman Sachs [and] I had nothing to do with” them, in the 2011 European Parliament nomination hearings.

ECB President Mario Draghi cuts the euro’s last lifeline … Anyone thinking that the arrival of Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank might herald a change in approach to the eurozone debt crisis would have been sadly disappointed by his first public appearance in the new role on Thursday. True enough, he did cut interest rates, but this was already part of a pre-written script and can be easily justified by what Mr Draghi referred to as “slow growth, heading towards mild recession”. No, and a thousand times no, he said to those calling on the ECB to stem the crisis with massive purchases of periphery-nation debt. The ECB’s function, he reiterated, was to focus exclusively on price stability, not to act as lender of last resort to governments. Already, he seems like a clone of his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, who famously had only “one needle in his compass” – inflation. Regrettably, it was this very same anti-inflationary zeal that is likely to have sealed the eurozone’s fate in slipping into “mild recession.” … The idea of a “mild recession” is also a contradiction in terms; recessions are never mild. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: The European Central Bank will do what it needs to do. It is an inflation fighter.

Free-Market Analysis: This is a big dominant social theme of the power elite – that central banks fight inflation. Central banks CREATE inflation by printing money from nothing. But the elite promotion is orchestrated to avoid that reality.

Over and over, you’ll see good, gray central bankers dressed in expensive suits stepping up to a bank of microphones to enunciate their concern over “inflation.” They don’t mean inflation, of course, which is monetary. They mean PRICE inflation. Meanwhile the printing presses churn behind them.

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European Stability Mechanism: Dictatorship in Waiting?

The European Stability Mechanism is supposed to address the EU’s ability to deal with the “economic crisis,” but it turns out that this solution is even worse than the problem, if that’s possible. It is apparently a totalitarian pact for a new European empire to be implemented within one to two years.

A new video (below) explains that the REAL import of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Apparently it calls for the creation of a fund of 700 billion euros that can be expanded at any time. It calls for a committee to administer this fund that is entirely above the law – one that can be neither prosecuted nor even questioned within a normal legislative venue.

It SOUNDS innocent enough when one doesn’t delve into the details. Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

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This was the week that European democracy died

By Janet Daley

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The plan to tackle the eurozone crisis will only render ordinary people more powerless.

Democracy went down in a blaze of glory last week. Both the German Bundestag and our own House of Commons put up one hell of a fight against the dying of the light. Maybe history will record that fact in an elegy on the demise of the great 18th-century experiment in government by the people: they were eloquent to the end. Because at the end, eloquence was all they had.

Trying to hold back the resurgence of oligarchy – the final dismantling of democratic responsibility in the governing of Europe – has been looking pretty hopeless for a long time. That eruption of excellent rhetoric and faultless argument which sprang to the defence of the rights of the governed (and in Germany’s case, of constitutional legality) made the loss seem all the more tragic, but no less inevitable.

So this is where we are. The agreed EU “stability union” triumphantly paraded before the media in Brussels will have the power to approve or disapprove budgets of countries in the eurozone – that is, to vet and police them – before they are submitted to the elected parliaments of those countries. In other words, parliaments which are directly mandated by, and answerable to, their own populations will not control the most essential functions of government: decisions on taxation and spending. Even without the ultimate institutions of economic and political union, which still elude the EU, actual power over fiscal policy will be taken from the hands of national leaders. And if, as a voter, you cannot influence your prospective government’s tax and spending policies, what exactly are you voting for?

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