The disastrous impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing Europe towards an existential crossroads. In defining the measures to respond to the crisis, two opposite blocks are forming: the front of the southern countries ("South") with larger public debts and weaker economic growth and the one of the northern countries ("North") with accounts in order and significantly lower debt-to-GDP ratios.
The problem. Mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will require a significant increase in public spending to rescue sinking economies and further shield health systems. At the same time, tax revenues will be collapsing as long as economic activity remains suppressed. Budget deficits will inevitably swell, leading to soaring public debt.
The coronavirus pandemic has revived the acrimonious debate between eurozone countries about jointly issuing debt to meet healthcare needs and address the deep economic downturn that is set to follow.
Nine of the 19 countries that use the single currency called on March 25 for a common debt instrument issued by a European institution to fight the outbreak and its effects.
The figures are depressing. In just one month the 2020 budget has gone out the window due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as spending soars as a result of the handouts to workers and enterprises and revenues crumble due to the suspension of corporate tax obligations - and the economic support cycle has only just got started.
A rise in borrowing costs caused by the coronavirus has halted Greek plans to tap bond markets again this year, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said on Friday.
Greece emerged from bailouts in 2018 after a decade-long debt crisis that locked it out of bond markets for years. It has since had several successful issues, including a 15-year bond in January.