Soros to Germany: 'Lead or leave' eurozone

Sept. 10, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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BERLIN, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Germany should either lead the eurozone out of recession by promoting needed growth or leave the currency union itself, billionaire financier George Soros said.

"Lead or leave -- this is a legitimate decision for Germany to make," Soros told the Financial Times. "Either throw in your fate with the rest of Europe, take the risk of sinking or swimming together, or leave the euro, because if you have left, the problems of the eurozone would get better."

Soros' interview echoed a commentary published Monday he wrote for The New York Review of Books and came hours ahead of a speech he was to give in Berlin Monday night on the same subject.

The Hungarian-American investor-philanthropist -- a supporter of European integration but a critic of Germany's eurozone crisis management -- said in the interview and commentary he would greatly prefer for Germany, Europe's largest economy, to remain in the eurozone.

"Politically it would be a terrible blow," he told the Times.

But he said for the good of Europe, Berlin must be persuaded to abandon its deflationary austerity stance and take on the role of a "more benevolent hegemon," or a kinder leading nation.

Benevolent German leadership in the eurozone could establish "a more or less level playing field between debtor and creditor countries" and create "nominal growth of up to 5 percent" that would permit "Europe to grow its way out of excessive indebtedness," Soros wrote in his commentary, titled "The Tragedy of the European Union and How to Resolve It."

But he added, "This would entail a greater degree of inflation than the Bundesbank [Germany's central bank] is likely to approve."

Alternatively, if Germany left the eurozone, the currency would depreciate, which would cut national debts, even after adjusting for inflation, and let debtor countries regain competitiveness, he wrote.

Soros wrote in his commentary he understood "Germany's fear of becoming the deep pocket for Europe," carrying the debt burden of weaker economies if all 17 eurozone economies pool their debt.

But Germany's current policy is creating "a permanent division of the euro area into debtors and creditors," with debtor nations condemned to low growth because they are forced to pay a high premium for access to credit, Soros wrote.

This will lead "to a prolonged depression, political and social conflicts, and an eventual breakup not only of the euro but also of the European Union," he wrote in the Review of Books.

He told the Times he was concerned that if the eurozone "falls apart in acrimony, Europe will be worse off than it was before it started."

He added that he expected to be attacked in Germany for his ideas because he is viewed as a financial speculator.

"But I am not only a speculator," said Soros, who has given away more than $8 billion to human rights, public health and educational causes over 30 years and played a significant role in Hungary's peaceful transition to capitalism from communism in 1989.

"I have effectively retired," Soros, 82, told the Times. "I think it is appropriate to speak out at my age."

Topics: George Soros
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