TRENTO, Italy (Reuters) - Germany and its central bank are unlikely to lead the way out of the euro zone debt crisis within three months time, after which it will be too late, U.S. billionaire George Soros said on Saturday.
Speaking at an economic conference in Trento, Italy, Soros said that the euro crisis - which he defined as a sovereign debt crisis and a banking crisis closely interlinked - threatened to destroy the European Union and plunge it into a lost decade like Latin America in the 1980s.
“A similar fate now awaits Europe. That is the responsibility that Germany and other creditor countries need to acknowledge. But there is no sign of this happening,” Soros said.
Soros said he expected Greek elections in June to produce a government willing to stick by the current bailout agreements, but which would find it impossible to do so.
“The Greek crisis is liable to come to a climax in the fall. By that time the German economy will also be weakening so that Chancellor (Angela) Merkel will find it even more difficult than today to persuade the German public to accept any additional European responsibilities. That is what creates a three-month window,” he said.
The Hungarian-born U.S. financier said that all the “blame and burden” of adjusting the euro area’s imbalances was falling on weaker peripheral countries, but the bloc’s core bore an ever greater responsibility for the crisis.
“The ‘centre’ is responsible for designing a flawed system, enacting flawed treaties, pursuing flawed policies and always doing too little too late,” he said.
Soros urged creating a European deposit insurance scheme and called for direct bank access to the euro zone’s rescue fund, as well as for joint financial supervision and regulation.
He also called for measures to lower borrowing costs of heavily indebted countries, warning that if this did not happen support for reforms in Italy would wane, making it difficult for the government to carry them out.
“There are various ways to provide it (a fall in funding costs), but they all need the active support of the Bundesbank and the German government,” he said.
The euro zone would eventually need a financial authority that could take over much of individual countries’ solvency risk.
Soros said that the financial system in Europe was fragmenting and reorganising itself along national lines, which in a few years time may make an orderly euro break up possible.
But “an earlier breakup is bound to be disorderly,” almost certainly leading to a collapse of the EU itself, he said.
He said it would take German authorities “an extraordinary effort” to gather public support in the coming three months for the measures which are needed to halt current trends.
“We need to do whatever we can to convince Germany to show leadership and preserve the European Union as the fantastic object that it used to be,” he said.
Editing by Mike Nesbit