Saturday, 22 October 2011

Macro Level Trends – Eastern Europe – Creating Self-Propulsion as the Eurozone Seeks its 'Lasting Solution'.

Angela Merkel and the neo-conservative element of the Christian-Democratic Party presently seek the panacea of a 'lasting solution' to the European Debt Crisis. Ideally, that would consist of solutions which not only ideally settle the immediate fiscal concern, the mid-term economic structural concern and long-term social concern. Also, to ultimately prohibit or ring-fence through regulatory means any possible re-occurance of the present-day 'fall-out' stemming from the financial instruments of the future.

EU Woes & Possible Fix -

The German Chancellor well recognises that the EU project must be saved and thereafter maintained if a healthy global economy is to be restored, all too conscious that if the Eurozone project were to disintegrate, whether quickly or slowly, an economic 'dark-age' for the region riddled with traits from nationalistic protectionism to xenophobia might well hang over the continent for decades to come.

She and many others are no doubt keen to ensure that in the future any similar systemic threat to the Eurozone should not be imported, as appears the case here. Future financial innovation therefore may need to be ring-fenced and operate within a better regulated 'quarantined environment'.

Presently, given the immediate need to save the EU, if questioned the Chancellor might react initially very negatively to a proposal Britain's Lord Owen recently tabled. It relays that 'miscreant EU countries' be allowed enter an alternatively created, less economically stringent, trading-bloc consisting of the EU's neighbouring non-member European countries. A trading group not to be viewed as a 'sin-bin', but seemingly as a 'half-way house', whereby greater freedoms are available than perhaps the Stability & Growth Pact allows to re-arrange a country's economic framework. Thereafter able to re-enter the EU upon renewed ratification of economic self-responsibility.

[NB This 'prescription' approximates the 'Economic Rainbow' (trade-bloc) hypothesis set forward some time ago by investment-auto-motives. Itself a broader-reach arrangement for nother European countries, critically inviting Germany given its political and technical leadership role it plays within the European mainland. This basic premis was previously forwarded to a number of independent Cross-Benchers in the House of Lords, along with a number of other UK auto-centric web-log essays].

As with any regional bloc with 'borderless trade' aim, the implicit longer term objective of the Eurozone is continual enlargement, a necessary goal to combat the emergent powers of the 21st century; namely: EurAsian (Russia-CIS), APTA-ASEAN (Asia-Pacific), MERCOSUR-ALADI (S.American), SACU-ECOWAS (S&W Africa), and of course a regenerated NAFTA possibly with CARIFORM (N.America & Caribbean). Moreover the BBC's 'Asian Report' programme states that bi-lateral trade between China and ASEAN constituents reached over $320bn in 2010 and is expected to reach over $500bn by 2015.

Today, those 'other' trade-bloc members are reaping the rewards of still very buoyant EM regional trade, and surely interpret the period ahead as “our economic wave”. The EU obviously still holds massive economic powers,but the fact that innate political complexity exists and the fact that 'sovereign identity' is such a culturally engrained phenomenon, means that unless a 'lasting solution' can be found the EU's global power-base will be consequentially eroded. Those that hold anti-EU attitudes may cheer, but in a global context may ultimately find themselves sat on the fringes of a 'backwater Europe'.

Solution Seeking -

Potential solutions range from the norm of overseen internal economic restructuring practices, the implementation of ESFS & ESFM mandates, through to radical ideas such as newly created 'economic mutuality zones' whereby the private sector of a creditor country could access the resources (mineral, productive, or human) of a debtor country, this done either physically inside a debtor country as necessary for primary extraction, or the creation of an economic zone in another non-partisan country (perhaps allied to free-trade areas), or indeed, given the power of the internet inside an IT enabled cyber-space world.

This might be viewed as colonialism 'by the back-door', but could also be viewed akin to China's 'foreign-city' concept, or Dubai's 'World Islands' creation, or indeed as an evolution of cyber-space's 'Second Life'. The critical aspect that the mutual creditor-debtor countries create their own version.

Such initiatives could be instigated by a re-balanced IMF &/or World Bank, along with the input of EM nations, who in the mid-term look to have a far greater role in the bail-out of the Eurozone.

This then allows for a type of economic 'bridge-loan' to be created and a methodology for full repayment – including critically toward private-sector creditors. Surely a far more preferable and reasonable outcome than the present system were rightful creditors are forced to endure the highly damaging 'anti-investor' pains of creditor hair-cuts.

CEE – A Spectrum of EU Exposure -

Geographically entwined, yet ideologically increasingly remote, is Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), a region which has experienced veritable transformation since the collapse of the Iron Curtain two decades ago.

The then 'poor cousin' of Europe was able to leverage a number of factors which had previously wilted under the heavy-diktat of Communism and the fiscal lethargy of Socialism: particularly a willing, aspirant yet demanding young labour-force and creation of new dynamic capital markets at retail and wholesale levels.

Therefore, the primary advantage for the 'Baltic & Balkans' was its 'cost-benefit' equation for multi-nationals, regional SMEs and its new crop of entrepreneurs, across most commercial spheres. The CEE offered massive opportunities for technical and service improvements generated by a low-cost yet willing young populace offering the prize of sizeable profit margins. An opportunity which spread across all industrial sectors at the 'Primary' level of agriculture and commodities extraction, at the 'Secondary' level of processing and 'Tertiary' level of R&D, development (hardware and software) and sales & service. Moreover, innovation could be identified and developed given the broad and deep educational template in operation throughout the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian and Communist periods.

The fact that Eastern Europe's growth was based upon economic fundamentals - as with 'late developing' Asia, S.America – was in sharp contrast the West: increasingly 'non-value-adding', increasingly 'credit-driven', and increasingly 'bubble-forming; arguably 'ethereal' West.

[NB The financial services sector is often mistakenly viewed as increasingly 'ethereal', yet whilst a portion of the investment banking sector created the now wryly named 'weapons of mass destruction', it must be remembered that inside Europe the framework and methods of London, Paris, Frankfurt remain critically important to both national and global economies, in fact more so as the world's need for finance and its allied services grows so spreading new wealth to many and extracating others from their respective poverty traps. This will continue as presumably other 'iron curtain' countries such as North Korea also transform, as we see with Cuba].

In the present-day, it is Eastern Europe which continues to attract attention given that many of its national inhabitants appear to have far less exposure to the Eurozone drag, though of course those typically with closer physical proximity to the EU or would were themselves were newly formed and so economically aspirational, undertook greater efforts to become more closely entwined during the boom era.

[NB Thus as illustrated by the 'spectrum' description (see below) to presume that the CEE is wholly free from any economic contagion would be naïve, especially given the size of the EU's banking ownership influence on what appears distinctly CEE and so separate financial corporations. Hence there may be calls for a 'contagion check' with associated 'stress-tests' to assess to what degree whether Eastern European banks of all ilks (owned, semi-owned and independent) are affected].

However, with the rapid reversal of fortunes, today a basic macro-interpretation is that being outside of the EU has become a whirlwind advantage.

A recent Financial Times video piece presented “thought experiment” findings from economists at the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction & Development), whose prime concern it is to assist the ongoing remoulding of the continent's innate economic structure. As such the EBRD sought to see which of the CEE countries would be most and least affected by a theoretical 'economic seizure' of the EU. To do so it collated 3 measures which together amount to full economic exposure, consisting of 'exports', 'external debt' and (EU) 'FDI'

The following list ranks the most exposed toward the least exposed. Additionally investment-auto-motives has included each country's population figures, presented as a proxy reflecting the degree of internal economic activity and so strength presumably available – though no population pyramids were viewed. These then provide an important dual perspective: level of potentially damaging EU exposure v the economic 'pulling-power' of the population.

The accompanying graph depicts the findings for easier digestion, and groups the CEE countries the EBRD listed into those which sit clear in the “high ground”, those which are positioned the tenable “mid ground”, and those that are vulnerable in the “low ground”.

“High Ground”

Russia -
8% Exports
6% External Debt
8% FDI
Total Exposure 24%
Population 143m
No EU Membership

Turkey -
6% Exports
11% External Debt
9% FDI
Total Exposure 26%
Population 73m
No EU Membership

“Mid Ground”

Ukraine -
5% Exports
25% External Debt
8% FDI
Total Exposure 38%
Population 46m
No EU Membership

Poland -
17% Exports
14% External Debt
24% FDI
Total Exposure 55%
Population 38m
Joined EU in 2004

Romania -
16% Exports
21% External Debt
22% FDI
Total Exposure 59%
Population 22m,
Joined EU in 2007

Kazakhstan -
16% Exports
4% External Debt
17% FDI
Total Exposure 37%
Population 16.6m
No EU Membership

Lithuania -
15% Exports
2% External Debt
10% FDI
Total Exposure 27%
Population 3.2m
Joined EU in 2004

Estonia -
24% Exports
3% External Debt
23% FDI
Total Exposure 50%
Population 1.34m
Joined EU in 2004

“Low Ground”

Hungary -
33% Exports
32% External Debt
40% FDI
Total Exposure 105%
Population approx 10m
Joined EU in 2004

Slovak Republic -
32% Exports
46% External Debt
36% FDI
Total Exposure 114%
Population 5m
Joined EU in 2009

Bulgaria -
18% Exports
36% External Debt
58% FDI
Total Exposure 112%
Population 7.5m,
Joined EU in 2007

Croatia -
7% Exports
22% External Debt
43% FDI
Total Exposure 72%
Population 4.3m
No EU Membership

Slovenia -
32% Exports
23% External Debt
23% FDI
Total Exposure 78%
Population 2m,
Joined EU in 2007

[Interestingly, Serbia was not included by the EBRD].
[NB obviously the labels are notionally descriptive only, and do not relate to true topography]

Increased Headwinds for “Low Ground” Nations -

Thus we easily see that a combination of high exposure to the EU and smaller populations puts Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia into potentially increasingly problematic economic 'straight-jackets'; possibly finding themselves without the ability to extract themselves from EU related woes and ultimately possibly 'on paper' without tenable national economies.

This then would create conditions for social unrest (agitated by cultural & religious differences) and black-market economies, in effect a return to the the latter days of the Soviet era and the tumultuous period seen in the early 1990s; such problems which were paradoxically supposed to be thereafter banished via the EU mechanism.

This depiction of a possible future is not a truism, but a very simplistic 'big picture' evolution of the ERBD's risk analysis tool. However, no doubt the reality is that analytical corners of the global capital markets have very probably already begun to assess the economic 'shape' that is Eastern Europe in a similar 'traffic light' manner.

Renewal of the Regional Balkan Identity -

Undoubtedly, the local populace of each of these highly affected nations feels somewhat betrayed by their politicians for entering into what now appears a 'Faustian pact' of debt, by their Mediterranean EU neighbours for poor banking, fiscal and sovereign governance, by Brussels for poorly managing the EU Project and possibly even by Germany - as the region's political and economic powerhouse - for not 'care-taking' of the region.

Thus a possible outcome is that these Balkan countries seek to distance themselves from the grasp of Brussels, and try and set out their own agendas, going so far as to create a mini-economic block of its own; much as was the case under Soviet rule.

Re-affirming national and local identities is typical of reactionary behaviour, returning to age-old ideas and ideals of self-reliance that sit at the core of Balkan culture, originating from centuries-long tough times. So whilst the Euro continues to be the formal currency of exchange, it would come as no surprise if other fringe value systems - especially in rural regions - come back into being; systems such as goods bartering and the return of close-knit, co-operative village life. Unfortunately, such circumstances also offer opportunity to black-marketeers, and the potential to fall backward toward a corruption-led socio-political system.

However, turning challenges into opportunities, any general social dynamic back toward 'localism' can offer new potential for the commercial world, for multi-nationals, regional SMEs and entrepreneurs.

One example particularly appears to shine and could be said to lead the way, Renault's purchase and substantial backing of Dacia in Romania

As with the Skoda story further north, what was once a 'lost' and previously culturally important nameplate was re-energised to not only provide economic uplift and generate innate Romanian pride, but through a well planned and executed business model exerted export strength by spreading its name throughout the CEE, through Russia, Turkey and Northern Africa, and now throught Western Europe. Renault had previously licenced its products to the 'old' Dacia during Soviet-era, which itself had leveraged the cultural connotations of historic Romania. But critically Dacia became the archetype of a 'local reconstructed brand', in its case brand and product values synonymous with ideals of:relative simplicity, durability and longevity yet without a rudimentary harshness that may be said to reflect the region's very persona.

National & Regional Economic Re-Assessment -

As a precursory initiative then, each of the potentially troubled countries should start to re-assess the fundamentals of its national and intra-national economies. The group must individually and en mass consider what 'infrastructure and instruments' they can deploy so as to underpin any necessary economic re-bound which may be required if indeed the EU starts to disintegrate. That economic template will need to be fundamentally sound and can last for decades to come.

Thus, much of the improved social, industrial & commercial infrastructure that came into being through EU involvement, but itself often owned by multi-national corporations, would serve to be used in creating the new Balkan spirit. And it appears the case that given the heavy sovereign debt loads of those “Low Ground” countries, that portions of government or EU owned infrastructure be sold to private enterprise so as to both pay down the debt and to ensure a sweating of the asset-base.

However, one serious headwind incurred has been the upward inflationary pressure that the Euro currency exerted across the Balkans; this previously seen in wage-spiral inflation and exemplified by the startling (fundamentally unsound) rise house-price and land-price appreciation.

Hence, there needs to be major reformation of the region's cost base across labour, land and possibly utilities-service pricing. This preferably achieved internally through government created caps on wages and salaries, with efforts deployed to both realistically adjust property prices so that the present over-valuation which has recently impeded sales can be overcome. An internally achieved process far better than a broad-scale 'market correction' of perhaps greater proportions.

Importantly, the economic importance of the automotive industry should once again be recognised.

It has experienced a truly impressive 'Phase 1' era, and now CEE countries must involve themselves as co-architects alongside multi-national corporations and local SMEs for what could well be a more locally reflective 'Phase 2' era. The building blocks of industrial investment has and continues to be formed from the 'Phase 1' – fundamentals that provide scale and efficiency - may be utilised at a later date with greater sensitivity and reflectivity of the collective Balkan peoples during a 'Phase 2' era.

The 'Phase 1' Era -

Prior to the official formation of the EU (in 1999) and throughout its enlargement (in 2004, 2007 and 2009) the auto-sector has been both recipient and propagator of economic value. A very basic web-located 2008 report by social academic M. Guidote states:

“by 1996, foreign-owned enterprises and joint ventures accounted for 85% of the production of the motor industry in Hungary, 82% in Poland, and 67% in Czech Republic, posting the highest degree of FDI penetration within their manufacturing sectors”.

Thus, the foundation stones for a new manufacturing and economic growth era within the CEE were being set well before politicians finalised formal agreements.

Beyond the aforementioned Dacia re-birth initiative, perhaps the best example nations have been the Czech Republic with the attraction of VW-Skoda, PSA-Toyota & Hyundai-Kia assembly plants and their respective closely-coupled supply base, along with the regeneration of Poland's (previous era) auto-industry gaining FDI from Ford, FIAT and GM (having absorbed Daewoo). Other examples include wholly new investments were made in Hungary by Suzuki, Audi and GM Opel, in the former East Germany by BMW, Porsche, GM Opel and VW in East Germany, and in the Slovak Republic by PSA.

FDI does indeed have its detractors, yet undeniably in those regions that have experienced previous ongoing stagnation or depletion of the local economy it will produce much needed brown-field and green-field investment. To re-quote the Guidote report:

“FDI inflow did result in speedy and deep-seated restructuring of foreign invested enterprises, which included organizational restructuring, technology transfer, worker training, the transfer of Western management structures and practices, and new production strategies and organization. It also increased quality and competitiveness of produced goods, resulted in productivity gains and expanded production and sales, both domestically and abroad”.

The New Reality -

The auto-industry itself is of course comprised of value-seeking corporations and companies with typically private equity interests during periods of fundamental change – as seen today given the contagion into core Europe through the banking sector from severe concerns about the sovereign debt of the 'PIIGS' periphery.

With what presently appears as the 'death-throws' of modern Europe, companies, shareholders and even large tracts of private equity well recognise the recently slowed growth but still far lusher 'green grass' of Chinese, Asian, S.American and now Pan-Arabic EM countries.

That sets a stark contrast to Europe, the “low ground” CEE countries and even perhaps their more tenable CEE neighbours. Most CEE members, those especially inside the analogous “low ground”, must address this investment, and so socio-economic, fact.

Where once much of the CEE was a natural destination suited to the necessarily high CapEx investment costs off-set by low-cost, widely available and willing labour-force, inevitably the rising standards of wealth and so people's expectations and ambitions has dramatically shifted the playing field for both indigenous exporting companies and critically multi-national VMs; very much noted by their current and potential shareholders.

Building Scale & Market Penetration -
As stated, the most obvious apparent supporter of the Balkan region has been France's Renault, no doubt a strategic ploy governed by various factors including: the then emergence of the enlarged EU, the a need to focus on a region away from Germany's immediate sphere of influence, and the probable ability to politically influence the region if necessary. This then the geo-political aspect of what has been proven to be an excellent business case relative to Balkan regional demand and export opportunity.

Renault's initiative and experience – together with VW's previous dedication to Skoda – set the benchmark industrial templates for other VMs who sought and seek to take advantage of the broad CEE market, together with critically, the expected 'new territory' EM markets further east, into the CIS countries.

Hence, as well known, a new round of automotive pioneering is presently underway, Renault now once again redeploying its 'EM industrial playbook' with Russia's Avtovaz (seeking 51%), GM also with Avtovaz, whilst FIAT SpA purchased the majority (67%) share of Serbia's Zastava - the remainder with the government – demonstrates its desire to better re-capture the spoils of past Soviet-era relationships.

The Possible 'Phase 2' Era -

Thus, very generally, we have seen how the southern CEE area has obviously become heartland of 21st century automotive production; the now almost iconic Dacia Logan itself a magnet of industrial attraction.

As its models proliferated on the X90 platform, beyond original Logan, Dacia's production soon outgrew Romanian capacity constraints and logistics disadvantages, hence Renault set-up CKD assembly and all new production plants in other EM regions further afield. Yet the Romanian 'home' plant of Mioveni still operates with full or near full capacity, the company reporting a production build of over 1.5m units thus far since 2004. The mix split as: 674,028 Logan sedan, 345,135 Logan MCV, 41,649 Logan Van, 25,323 Logan Pick-Up, 320,426 Sandero (hatchback), 64,508 Sandero Stepway (x-over).

FIAT had a long established relationship with Moscow and other Soviet administration centres since Italy's own 1950s industrial reformation. This led to licencing and production agreements with Russia's LADA from the 1960s and, more specifically in this case, with Serbia's Zastava from 1954 until with ever loosening and re-tightening ties to this day. Zastava's failed attempt at independence using the Yugo moniker in the 1980s, along with the 1990s Serbian war, a failed attempt at 'aftermath re-structuring' by the World Bank and what seems little more than a subsidy seeking exercise by one Amercan entrepreneur in 2002, meant that FIAT's approach in 2008 was agreed. It was the only viable process for re-establishing the company (ie the Kragujevic plant) as a FIAT production centre. However there is a high likelihood of a re-emergence for the Zastiva brand, positioned as an entry-level marque under FIAT in CEE & CIS markets, and set either head-on against Dacia or more probably positioned slightly below (given Dacia's market progress and raised brand equity).

Hence the future potential of Romanian and Serbian manufacturing capacity alone looks increasingly impressive (excluding other CEE countries). Dacia's plant currently has an annual output of approximately 250,000 units out of a maximum 350,000 given recent plant expansion plans. Zastiva's plant will be expected to produce – as a guestimate by investment-auto-motives – something in the order of 200,000 by the mid of the decade, from a production capacity of 400,000.

Thus by 2020, both facilities could be producing 750,000+ units.

This scale then offers potential for industrial 'piggy-baking', existing and new locally-led firms able to purchase off-the-shelf structures, systems and components, and perhaps even use R&D or back-office functions from the VMs, to create their own, or as likely, JV, new products and services that befit regional demand.

Regional Recapture of its 'Lost' Identities -

The regeneration of Dacia and Zastava brands, along with the re-freshening of Russia's LADA and GAZ products seen of late, together with attempts for Volga, shows a willingness to resuscertate and re-vitalise of what had been either under-performing or 'lost' local brands. With that loss, came an intrinsic loss in regional and local identities.

Of course not all of the CEE's past nameplates are suitable for resurrection, given that they themselves are lost in the annuls of time. This a consequence of: poor sales during the 1910s/20s versus better developed European vehicles, the Communist insistence of alpha-numeric
vehicle identities, unworthy nameplates, and 'best-forgotten' marketing attempts in later years.

Two of the latter 'species' would appear to be Poland's “FSO”, the nationalistic 'home branding' of FIAT cars, and the already mentioned Yugo, the butt of so many western jokes to Serbian embarrassment

Thus any other future nameplates worthy of re-appraisal should intrinsically convey “strong respect” or “strong attachment”. Given these basic parameters, investment-automotives believes that there are other 'ex-Eastern Bloc' brands which could – with the right business models – attract broad consumer bases from an ever widening yet ever more fragmenting and discerning CEE market place.

The psychological associative power of using place-name identity has of course been intrinsic to mass consumerism, especially so in the car world. Serving as examples have been:
- Austin in the 1950s using the Westminster moniker for its large car to reflect authority
- Ford in the 1960s using Cortina, Capri, Granada & Fiesta name to reflect 'escapist' dreamscapes for British car buyers, the names themselves politically motivated given the then formation of the European Common Market, and Ford's desire to access the souther countries of Italy & Spain
- VW when building SEAT using typically Spanish place-names of Ibiza, Toledo & Alhambra. This later leaning toward Arabic/Moorish culture continued in VW badged cars such as Touran, Toureg & Tiguan

We live in an era that has in part shifted 'cultural responsibility'. Where once it was the domain of private individuals living in villages, towns and feudal states, it has for some time been re-generated and re-presented (both well and badly) by the commercial world eager to seek authenticity, legitimacy and customer connection. Thus the corporations themselves, arguably saviours yet exploiters of cultural identity, so have a corporate social responsibility to be as true as possible when organising events, sponsoring local sports teams or creating products.

The “Low Road” Forward -

From very brief analysis, investment-auto-motives believes that the “Low Ground” countries with vital assistance from its “Mid Ground” physical neighbours, and long-term interaction with “High Ground” counterparts, may be able to, on an automotive level at least, produce, consume and perhaps export their way through any future economic downturn.

But it must be noted that the vehicle manufacturing base of the “Low Ground” countries themselves is presently very small. To this end it should seek to build a vehicle assembly and manufacturing sector that is complimentary and inter-connected to that of the VMs presently operating in elsewhere around the region, specifically that in Romania (Renault-Dacia) and that which will be forthcoming Serbia (FIAT-Zastava).

Very simplistically, the primary activators to do so would be:

- exploiting the manufacturing scale set in place by neighbours
- the identification of local, regional & foreign demographic needs / wants /desires
- the identification of specialist B2B vehicle markets & attraction of established players
- the re-vitalisation of 'lost' but meaningful regional brands & nameplates
- the integration of (simple to complex) eco-tech solutions to add USP.
- the demonstration of CEE original thinking* at product, process and business model levels.

* it was the demonstration of original and innovative thinking from the industrial intelligentsia of the CEE in the early 20th century that set it apart, concentration, creativity & tenacity leading to solutions that create high-value products to this day.

Conclusion -

Creating the perfect conditions and formulae for the CEE's “Low Ground” self-emergence will not be easy, especially so if EU fiscal contagion does indeed spread.

But either with 'soft' or 'hard' economic landings the task of re-creating itself as a substantive self-willed and self-directing entity looks to be a necessary task that must be embarked upon – the sooner the better.

This is not to convey that the EU entwined CEE countries in the Balkans should seek to extricate themselves from Brussels, indeed undoubtedly, as stated, much good has been forthcoming. Yet it will also be recognised that the positive benefits that EU membership was able to infer came as a result of a 'rising tide' in a then more closely coupled global economy.

{NB As investment-auto-motives has previously mentioned, ironically the west appeared to be questioning the inter-relationship 'coupling' of East and West at a time it was wholly evident, but now hopes it is indeed the case when EM nations may seek to de-couple).

Given the 'Low Ground' countries physical proximity, and so logistical links, to lower cost areas such as Turkey and CIS states, aswell as the new economic opportunity in 'New Egypt' and 'New Libya', the Balkans could seek to position itself specifically as a “second-order” economy providing mid-value production capabilities in various sectors, aswell as an enhanced 'trade-gate' into Central Europe.

What ever the outcome, and although not immediately obvious, the broadly negative EU picture means that there is a real urgency for the “Low Ground” CEE countries to re-assess their economic fundamentals.

In the meantime all members of the Eurozone and CEE should well understand Angela Merkel's call for a 'lasting solution' which necessitates deep structural reforms, a proven and critically self-imposed manner that merges present-day mechanisms of the IMF with a country's own true commitment. Yet members should also try and devise less painful, more palatable routes which reflects today's very different geo-political & technology-based economic reality.

But of course time is of the essence, by Sunday, or Wednesday or the following Sunday, we 'should' see an outcome. What is required is an interconnected, multi-layered solution that offers short term advantage to all, yet avails long-term security aswell.

The future prosperity of half a billion people depend upon it, but in the meantime 'exposed' regions like the “Low Ground” CEE countries would be wise to at least theoretically construct their own life boats.