“Moment of truth for Southern Europe,” headlines La Tribune, at a time when three of the ‘Club Med’ economies have come under increasing pressure. First up, Greece, which has been ordered by the experts of the troika formed by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF to finalise its budget for 2012 in advance of any further aid payments. In the meantime, the troika has decided to suspend its observation mission to the country. Next up, Spain, where the parliament “has addressed a reassuring message” to Europe with its adoption on 2 September of the fiscal golden rule, which will introduce a constitutional obligation to balance public budgets.
The Spanish reform has now reached the penultimate stage of approval, and the daily points out that, “in the absence of unforeseen developments,” it should be ratified by a Senate vote scheduled for next week. Finally Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi has bowed to pressure from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and the Italian employers’ lobby to introduce an austerity plan to restore the country’s credibility. “In the wake of the departure on 2 September of the international troika from Athens, all the countries of Southern Europe will come under intense pressure to reinforce the credibility of the budget adjustment plans. If they do not succeed in this regard,” remarks La Tribune, “the governments in ‘creditor’ countries will be unable to secure approval for the European agreement in their national parliaments. The Eurozone democracies are now competing in a race against time to save the European economic and monetary union while the financial markets remain wholly sceptical about Greece’s ability to repay its debts.”