Has Germany had enough? Hot on the heels of Mario Draghi's 'demands' that EU leaders undertake "structural reforms" to boost competitiveness and overcome the legacy of Europe's debt crisis, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble unleashed perhaps the most worrisome statement tonight for all the free-money-party-goers - the music is about to stop. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Schaeuble blasted "Europe needs to find ways to foster growth," adding that "the ECB has reached the limit in helping the Euro Area." In a clear shot across the bow of his 'core' cohort, Schaeuble said he "understood" Hollande's demands but shot back that "monetary policy can only buy time."
As WSJ notes, the French are seeking aid...
Growth in France had already ground to a halt in the first quarter, and Paris now says the persistent weakness means it won't be able to meet its deficit reduction target this year.
"We can't deny that certain geopolitical risks are playing a very important role at the moment. There are indicators of an economic slowdown," Mr. Schaeuble said in a joint press conference with Mr. Sapin.
French President Francois Hollande has proposed holding a euro-zone summit to discuss using the flexibility of EU treaties to slow the pace of deficit reduction. Mr. Schaeuble avoided saying whether Germany would approve a more flexible approach for any country in particular.
"Nobody has a lesson to give to anyone else because everyone knows the rules," Mr. Schaeuble said.
Germany has been reluctant to give up on fiscal discipline without seeing results from French promises to make structural changes to the economy in areas like labor law and welfare benefits. Europe last year already granted France a two-year delay to 2015 to bring its deficit within the EU rule of 3% of economic output--a target France is now likely to miss.
Mr. Sapin said the French president's request for a euro-zone meeting is to discuss the currency bloc's problems as a whole, not France's specifically.
"It's in no way a demand for an extension--that I can tell you straight away," Mr. Sapin said.
Which means only one thing - it is a demand for an extension... which perhaps explains Schaeuble's extreme tone this evening (bia Bloomberg):
- *SCHAEUBLE SAYS HE 'UNDERSTANDS' HOLLANDE'S EU ECONOMIC PLAN
- *SCHAEUBLE SAYS EUROPE NEEDS TO FIND WAYS TO FOSTER GROWTH
- *SCHAEUBLE SAYS ECB HAS REACHED LIMIT IN HELPING EURO AREA
- *SCHAEUBLE SAYS MONETARY POLICY CAN ONLY BUY TIME
As he explains:
"Monetary policy can only buy time,’’ Schaeuble said in the interview yesterday.
“Liquidity in markets is not too low, it’s even too high. Therefore I think monetary policy has come to the end of its instruments and therefore what we urgently need is investments, regaining confidence by investors, by markets, by consumers."
"I don't think ECB monetary policy has the instruments to fight deflation, to be quite frank,” Schaeuble said.
Schaeuble said he’s confident that “my French colleagues will do what’s needed in line with the rules that have been agreed again and again.”
"It’s very important that we all know in Europe -- every member state -- that we have to stick to structural reforms and enhance competitiveness, even in Germany."
Yet another nail in the coffin of any large scale sovereign asset purchase scheme...
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With pressure from the French on Draghi to do "whatever it takes" again (for real this time) it appears this is as clear a message from Zee Germans that they won't stand for anymore.