The mood on the ground in Athens has shifted palpably over the past few months. Everyone has firsthand stories of sorrow and bitterness to tell, as austerity measures bite. They speak of retired parents on rapidly shrinking pensions struggling to meet higher taxes and prices, or of young siblings with multiple masters degrees forced to work in call centers or cafes.
Spain plans to borrow 207.2 billion euros ($266.5 billion) next year, the Budget Ministry said today, as pressure builds for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to tap the European rescue fund instead of financial markets.
A political storm brewing in Italy has the potential to disrupt the calm that has prevailed in the euro area. Europe’s leaders can only hope that markets will somehow prevent the currency union’s third-largest economy from backsliding too far on efforts to keep its debts under control.
Just before Christmas, I met with former Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, and he talked about how excited he was to spend the holidays abroad, where -- unlike in Greece -- he could roam freely without a security detail. His holiday didn’t go quite as expected.