“Unlike in 2010-2012, Greece is not as crucial to the euro zone now. Before, she was just one among many countries that could be affected: there were fears that once Greece fell, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy might need assistance, too, presenting massive challenges to the entire euro zone,” says economist Žygimantas Mauricas of Nordea group.
He says that now, unlike several years ago, the Spanish economy looks healthy enough, as does Portugal, while Ireland is among fastest-growing EU economies. Even Greece has stabilized and reversed recession into growth.
“Perhaps France is a headache right now, but there is little chance of them going bankrupt in the short run or facing major problems,” Mauricas thinks.
Rokas Grajauskas, Baltics analyst for Banske Bank, concurs, saying that even if Greece decided to opt out of the euro zone, the situation now is a far cry from the crisis in its apex in 2010-2011.
“The situation is fundamentally different due to two factors: southern and peripheral countries are doing better economically; second, we have the European Stability Mechanism in place to handle any problems that might arise. This essentially pacifies the markets, because even if the Greeks wanted to leave the euro zone, this would not be contagious to other countries,” he says.
Consequences for euro zone’s youngest member
What would happen in Lithuania, should Greece opt out of the euro zone?
According to Grajauskas, Lithuania and other new members of the currency union would feel the consequences of the Greek exit.
“First, borrowing conditions for Lithuania might slightly deteriorate; second, investors might lose some interest in Lithuania due to more uncertainty in the euro zone,” Grajauskas says.
Speculations about Greece’s possible withdrawal fired up after German weekly Der Spiegel ran a story last week, suggesting that Chancelor Angela Merkel might be inclined to let Greece go, should ultra-leftist Syriza party, critical of the country’s fiscal policies dictated by the EU, win general elections this January.