Election Of Banker Raises Hopes Of Other Bankers

Vive La France!
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Gouvernement français [CC BY-SA 3.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons

Gouvernement français [CC BY-SA 3.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard an awful lot about the French presidential election: Who is Emmanuel Macron? Did the French know he was an investment banker before electing him? What does it mean? Is it safe to buy European stocks now? Why do the French like voting so much? But you might not have heard the most important thing of all: What does Yanis Varoufakis think of all of this?

Well, you can be sure of one thing: The hog-riding, leather-clad former Greek finance minister and professional troll of the German ruling class has an opinion (and a new book to sell). It just might not be what you think. Unlike some on the far left, such as far left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Varoufakis thought it’d be a really bad thing if neofascist Marine Le Pen became president of France.

Nevertheless, it is nothing less than scandalous for any progressive to keep an equal distance from Le Pen and Macron. Of course we all wish, at least those of us on the left, that the French electoral system were not binary. But it is. And given that it is, I refuse to be part of a generation of European progressives who could have stopped Marine Le Pen from winning France’s Presidency but didn’t. This is why I am writing this article: To support unequivocally Macron’s candidacy in the second round.

There’s more: It wasn’t just about keeping Le Pen out of power. Despite Macron’s “dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism” and a proposed Eurozone rejig that would give more power to Varoufakis’ Teutonic enemies, he was the only person trying to help Varoufakis and his neocommunist government.

During my tenure as Greece’s finance minister in early 2015 Emmanuel revealed to me a side of him that few progressives have seen. While the troika of Greece’s lenders and the Berlin government were strangling our freshly elected left-wing government’s attempts to liberate Greece from its debt-bondage, Macron was the only minister of state in Europe that went out of his way to lend a helping hand. And he did so at a personal political cost….

By crushing the Greek Spring the troika did not only deal a blow to Greece but also to Europe’s integrity and soul. Emmanuel Macron was the only member of the establishment that tried to stop it.

What does all that mean? Probably nothing. Greece is still doing the same thing as when Varoufakis got the ax, and Macron seems pretty committed to the whole neoliberal thing. All the same, Greeks—and Italians and Spaniards and Portuguese and Irish—should be thankful that enough French people listened to Yanis, especially their bankers.

Banking union is the thing that matters most for banks and their investors. This is the common legal and licensing framework that would allow lenders to collect deposits, make loans and sell other financial services seamlessly across borders….

France has a big interest in leading on this issue. After all, of the eurozone’s nine biggest banks by assets, five are French, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The obstacle is Europe’s €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) bad-debt pile and its concentration in Italy, Greece and Portugal. Northern European politicians and especially German ones reel from the idea of putting their taxpayers’ cash at risk across borders and never will before this problem is cleaned up….

The risk of not sorting out weak banking nations is that the eurozone becomes two-speed by default as countries with strong banks enjoy better access to capital and stronger economic growth, increasing the eurozone’s political strains.

Greek and Italian bank stocks rose Monday morning, as investors bet that Mr. Macron recognizes this. But he must convince Germany, too.

Why Macron’s Win Is Good for Europe’s Worst-Off Banks [WSJ]

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