PICK a note, any note. The bills of Europe’s single currency are adorned with handsome bridges, arches, vaults and aqueducts, testament to the glorious architectural history of the old continent. True, the constructions are a little lacking in character; the notes’ designers were told to depict generic examples rather than specific structures to avoid offending countries whose splendours might be overlooked. But they speak of strength, sturdiness and the confidence of what some used to believe might be the world’s next reserve currency.
The euro itself, though, remains a wobbly, half-built enterprise, desperately unprepared for the next shock. When Europe caught America’s flu after 2008, bond markets picked off the euro’s weakest members one by one. Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain were forced into bail-outs. Italy, the euro’s third largest economy, tottered. Emergency funds were created, the European Central Bank implied it would create unlimited quantities of cash if…Continue reading