The ESM Programmes

Nowadays, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) can lend up to 410 billion[1] to the Eurozone countries in financial difficulty via different case-specific ESM programmes. These resources are borrowed, issuing debt on the market, using as a guarantee of the ESM solidity its own capital (704 billion). The ESM can support the countries in different manners:

  • ESM programmes with loans in support of macroeconomic adjustment:

The Euro Area countries that need support to finance their public spending , because they are in financial distress or they can’t finance themselves directly on the market, can request financial assistance to the ESM. As a condition for the intervention, the ESM requires the state to implement certain reforms, established considering its specific situation. For example, these may concern reducing the public spending, strengthening the banking sector, adopting measures that improve the competitiveness of the country, increase its economic solidity and allow the state to return to economic growth in the following years. The reforms are established jointly with the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if the latter is also involved in the support programme. All the measures are reported in the so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The main objective is to restore the financial situation of the state to allow it to repay the previous debts and to be able to finance autonomously on the markets again.

The contribution of external and supranational institutions to the economic planning of the country in difficulty is often perceived negatively  by the public opinion. It is seen as a commissioner or, even worse, as an expropriation by foreign countries. Moreover, these reforms have been frequently criticized, because austerity and reduction of public spending in phases of economic contraction could exacerbate the recession, instead of solving it. However, past interventions of ESM programmes had always a positive impact on the country that has requested assistance. Even though they required numerous sacrifices, the reforms established with the European institutions contributed to a reduction of the inefficiencies in the public spending, relaunching the competitiveness of the national economy and its growth and impacted positively also on the labour market.

graph of GDP per capita trend

Figure 1: GDP per capita time series of countries whose  economies have suffered more during the sovereign debt crisis. Spain, Cyprus and Portugal requested the ESM assistance and realized a programme of reforms agreed with the European institutions. After some years of recession, their economy has returned to sustained growth. Italy did not join ESM programmes, but its recovery from the recession was slow and weak. Greece suffered a dramatic economic crisis. The country joined several support programmes of the IMF and the EU. Greek GDP diminished by around 30 percent between 2008 and 2016. However, recently, positive signs have emerged. The economy has started to recover and the country has been able to finance autonomously on the market again after a long time.[2]

unemployment rate trend europe

Figure 2: Unemployment rate of Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and  Portugal from 2010 and 2019.[3]

Participating in the reform planning, the ESM and the other European institutions assure the other Euro Area countries that the resources lent are actually used to solve the vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the presence of conditionalities guarantees also to the ESM creditors that the institution employs the capital safely and will not have problems, in the future, to pay back its debts. Thanks to this mechanism, the ESM can finance itself at very low rates and lend to the countries in difficulty for lower rates than any other investor would offer them in the markets.     


savings ESM

Figure 3: Savings generated accessing the ESM programmes instead of financing directly on the markets. Source:

In addition, the repayment period for the capital of the loans starts only after many years. For example, Cyprus will start to pay back the capital of the ESM loans received in 2012 only in 2025. So far the country paid only a yearly amount of interest.[4]

The ESM can intervene providing loans to the States in crisis to finance their reforms and improve their economic situation, providing resources to recapitalize banks and other financial institutions or, even, purchasing government debt securities on the markets. Generally, the ESM loans have a higher seniority than the normal issuances of public debt. This means that the borrowing state will be responsible for repaying the ESM first and then the other creditors. This can contribute to increasing the cost for the state in difficulty to finance itself in the market. Indeed, the other investors will be more exposed to the risk of not receiving back the money lent, especially if the ESM loans are very large. However, countries that require substantial resources from ESM programmes have probably already lost the possibility to finance themselves on the market, because they are no longer able to find investors willing to purchase such risky debt or because the state is unable to pay the price these investors require to bear that risk. The negative impact of seniority may be softened by the fact that ESM loans have very long maturities.

For countries that can still finance themselves on the market, it is important to remember that the European Central Bank (ECB) can purchase debt securities of a Eurozone country, but only up to a maximum amount.[5] ECB purchases contribute to reduce the cost of debt for the recipient country. Moreover, in situation of extreme financial instability, a state that has requested assistance from the ESM through a macroeconomic adjustment program or a precautionary credit line with reinforced conditionality (see below), and has already signed the Memorandum of Understanding, can benefit from the Outright monetary transactions of the ECB (better known as OMT). [6]OMT allows the ECB to buy short term government bonds (1-3 years) of the state in the secondary market to prevent an excessive rise in yield rates, due to market tensions. By intervening with the OMT, the ECB has no constraints on the amount of securities that can be purchased. The ECB will also waive its right to a higher seniority than other creditors in order to avoid the negative consequences explained above.

Financing part of the needs with ESM programmes can really help a State in difficulty, because it can issue a smaller quantity of debt on the market, benefiting from the low rates and long maturities of the ESM and also from the effect on the cost of debt given by the intervention of the ECB, for the portion issued on the markets.[7]

Polandball comic on the news that the German Constitutional Court will rule on whether the European Stability Mechanism breaches the German constitution (2012)
  • Precautionary credit lines:[8]

Among other ESM programmes, there is the precautionary financial assistance.

A Eurozone state which has an overall sound economic situation, but finds itself temporarily in financial difficulty, or feels it must intervene preventively in order to be able to continue to finance itself on the markets, can apply for access to the precautionary credit lines of the ESM. Precautionary credit lines are shorter duration programmes which last at most two years. Their objective is to protect the States during a period of higher market tension, allowing them to finance their spending for low rates, without the need for deeper interventions. If the State that requested the ESM financing has a sustainable public debt – that is a deficit-GDP ratio below 3% in the last two years and a debt-GDP ratio below 60% (or it is already following a plan agreed with the EU institutions to restore its public finances)[9]– and its banking system does not have problems of solidity that could affect the Euro Area banking system stability then the country is entitled to access the Precautionary Conditional Credit Line (PCCL). The ESM will provide financial support and the state will undertake to plan the necessary measures together with the European institutions, signing a Memorandum of Understanding, to overcome the phase of difficulty.

On the other hand, if the global macroeconomic framework of the state is substantially good, but there are significant imbalances in at least one of the aspects being assessed (public debt, stability of the banking and credit system, etc.), then the country can only access the precautionary credit line with enhanced conditionalities (ECCL). In this scenario, the European Council, the Commission and the ECB, together with the country, establish a detailed corrective plan to overcome the critical points. In addition, the EU institutions initiate periodic surveillance to monitor the risks related to the country’s public debt and financial sector, considering also the possible impacts on other eurozone countries.

The ESM has often been criticised. Many people consider it as a symbol of poor European solidarity. Mainly because its aid programmes to countries in difficulty are loans subject to numerous conditionalities and not subsidies. Unfortunately, conditionalities are difficult to avoid in the absence of greater European integration and major steps forward in the unitary project. The intervention of EU institutions for national economic planning and reforms is seen as a loss of sovereignty, but in the past it has had a positive impact on the economies of the assisted countries. It should not be forgotten that the situations in which the ESM was activated were often particularly critical and could not be overcome by ordinary interventions. In order to have a stronger and more lasting union, it is essential to avoid mechanisms that incentivise some countries to get into debt and use resources that they could not afford in fruitless expenditure, only because they are convinced that, in the end, other European countries will settle the bill for them. Solidarity between EU member States is essential, especially in times of difficulty, but it must be remembered that other States also finance themselves on the markets or through taxes. It is not easy to determine to what extent it is fair to ask a citizen of another country to go into debt or pay more taxes to support another indebted country.

On 15 May 2020, after intense negotiations in the various European institutions, the ESM board of governors established a special temporary credit line to support the healthcare spending of Euro Area States during the covid-19 crisis.

  • ESM Pandemic crisis support:[10]

The pandemic crisis support is a credit line available for all the countries participating in the ESM. Each state can borrow up to 2% of its 2019 GDP for a cost lower than the ordinary precautionary credit lines.

resources for pandemic crisis ESM

Figure 4: Amount of resources that each country could borrow activating the ESM Pandemic crisis support.

These resources will be available until 2022, with the unique conditionality that the credit line must be used to finance the spending related to the sanitary crisis. The ESM disburses the health financing within 12 months of the request and the loan will have a maximum duration of 10 years. Moreover, this assistance is not only available in the form of a loan, the resources of the pandemic credit line can also simply be used as collateral to raise finance on the market at lower costs[11]. Once the ESM intervention has been requested, the state and the European Commission will have to draw up a pandemic response plan, setting out the measures and expenditure that will be financed with the allocated resources. The commission will also monitor the state’s intervention and its economic situation during the life of the loan. Due to the specific conditions of access, the pandemic credit line will only be beneficial for an applicant state if it has a strategic plan to address the weaknesses of its health system or to better address the health emergency. [12] This is especially true since the use and management of the funds is supervised by the European Commission. Convenience will also depend, as usual, on the cost for the state to finance itself on the market. If the market offers similar or lower rates, there will be little point in asking the help of ESM programmes to get resources.

ESM lending rate comparison

Figure 5: 10 years Euro Area government bond yields compared with the ESM lending rate.

Michele Corio

[1] The overall amount that the ESM can lend is equal to 500 billion considering also the resources already deployed. These resources are borrowed by the ESM on the markets to finance its programmes. As explained in the article “ESM for dummies” (link), the 410 billion (or 500) are not part of the capital contributed by the States (700 billion).




[5]  ECB can purchase government bonds of the Eurozone countries in proportion to each national central bank’s share of the ECB’s capital (Capital key). However, the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) allows the ECB to have more flexibility in the purchases concerning the capital key.

[6] The OMT is an extraordinary instrument that gives the ECB the right to intervene to preserve the financial and economic stability of a country – and the whole Euro Area –  purchasing its debt securities on the secondary market without any limitation on the amount. This tool was introduced after the famous speech of Mario Draghi (“whatever it takes”) in London in July 2012. Luckily, so far it has never been necessary to use the OMT.



[9] These rules have been suspended during the pandemic and they might be modified after the sanitary crisis.




The pitfalls back of market growth

Financial markets continue their unstoppable growth. After the impressive recovery of April, also May disappointed the expectations of many short sellers[1] who were betting on a downward correction in the market. After a prolonged period of lockdown, the opening in all countries have generated a great euphoria on the financial markets, making the run-up to pre-coronavirus levels continue.

For a long time, we have relied on earnings as the main value driver in the stock market. Wasn’t the price / earnings (P/E)[2] ratio one of the main multiples for valuing stocks? So far, although most companies have reported earnings well below the levels provided by both guidance and analyst forecasts (except those in the technology sector, communications and stay-at home stocks[3]), the market is slowly returning to its pre-crisis level. The Nasdaq composite has returned to very few percentage points from the historical highs.

The numerous negative macroeconomic data amplify the paradox of this overview, almost one-way upwards. The International Monetary Fund estimates[4] predict negative GDP projections in almost all countries of the world, with rare exceptions such as China and India (respectively + 1.2% and + 1.9% in 2020) which in turn are far from the standard growth rate. In 2020, a 7.5% drop is expected in the Euro area with a 4.7% rebound in 2021. We wonder  how long it will take to return to the levels of GDP before the coronavirus.

United States-5.94.7
United Kingdom-6.54.0
United States-5.94.7
United Kingdom-6.54.0
Source: IMF. Pil outlook in percent change.

Additionally, the estimates on unemployment  in the United States reached 14.7% in April, more than triple from 4.4% in March[5]. We must keep in mind that about 70% of the consumption in the United States is due to the US families themselves. Who will consume in the USA considering that unemployment increases?

Together with the macroeconomic assessments there is  the total uncertainty concerning the vaccine too. Although some (few) trials have been successful, an effective vaccine seems to be far from being achieved. Nowadays, the most promising vaccines are being tested. However, it seems that investors have recently forgotten the main uncertainties that this health and economic crisis has caused: there are no effective treatments, we do not know if, and possibly when, profits will return to pre-covid 19 levels, we do not know the consequences of the reopening or if the autumn period could lead to a new wave. And I could continue with many other uncertainties.

So, where does all this optimism come from? The real question is to wonder if perhaps ‘there is no alternative’ market. In fact, alongside all these uncertainties, we have unquestionable certainties: the central banks continue and will continue to print money unceasingly, guaranteeing unlimited stimuli (two examples are the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan). The decisions of the main central banks to provide disproportionate liquidity on the market have probably favored a recovery in the short term, but its sustainability will have to be assessed. Inevitably, all these interventions have brought the returns on cash and bonds to such low levels as to generate an implicit investors’ willingness to expose themselves more on the stock market, in order to obtain a more satisfactory risk-return. Added to this is the so-called ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) by investors, or the fear of missing the opportunity at the time of the bullish trend to take advantage of the rally[6], which in turn feeds further rises. The problem remains, however, the macroeconomic context, which could lead to an upward trend only in the short term.

Another factor of extreme importance is the possible cold war between the United States and China which could further fuel uncertainty on the markets. The immediate reaction was naturally negative. Such contexts increase the risk-premium and endanger global development. Obviously, an increase in the risk-premium[7] leads, in most cases, to a decrease in the share price. Bear in mind that we are talking about the two major powers in terms of global GDP, and serious repercussions could, with a chain effect, involve all markets.

As for the European market and in particular the Eurozone, the main news concerns the Recovery Fund proposed by the European Commission which should guarantee 750 billion with an issue of thirty-year securities guaranteed by all countries, with a mix of loans and grants. Very complicated negotiations will open in the following months. We are finally approaching a debt mutualization at the European level (eurobond). The problem is that the funds will be accessible no earlier than 2021. Consequently, the instruments available in European countries will be, at least until the end of 2020, the Sure, the Esm and the purchases of government securities by the European Central Bank. These initiatives were taken with great euphoria on the markets, above all that of government bonds which saw a narrowing of spreads[8].

We cannot predict whether the stock rally will last much longer since we are in a truly anomalous market. In this context, investor sentiment seems to count far more than macroeconomic and microeconomic fundamentals. However, there is a crucial principle of the economy: in order to be sustainable in the long term, growth must be based on solid structures  and these, nowadays, seem to be very fragile. In the extreme case, there is the risk of creating a bubble which, if it explodes, would cause further negative consequences on the market.

Gianlorenzo Zeccolella


[2] Price over earnings is one of the most important multiples, used to assess the equity value of a company. When P/E = 15x, the stock price is 15 times its earnings per share.

[3]  Typical examples for stay-at-home stocks are Netflix or Zoom.



[6] In finance, a rally is a period of sustained increase in the price of an asset.


[8] The spread is the differential between the returns of two securities with the same maturity (typically 10 years). One of the securities compared is considered as a benchmark.

Are financial markets discounting the coronavirus effects?

In the current environment of protracted uncertainty, the global economic growth outlook has significantly changed due to the COVID-19 effects. The whole economy is facing a series of fundamental macroeconomic and structural challenges which are leading to an impressive slowdown: the health crisis has quickly become an economic crisis and it is gradually turning into a financial crisis.

The recent stock market crash is probably just the beginning of a series of unfortunate events. The partial recovery experienced by the markets in the last weeks is only a small detour from the negative path undertaken since the beginning of the crisis. Intraday volatility, up-and-down price oscillation within the trading session, can be a proxy for the uncertainty of the investors about the future financial performances of an asset or the whole financial market. Recently this indicator has reached extreme levels. An additional proof of the investors’ concerns is given by the volatility index (VIX), typical measure for the market sentiment. The VIX touched the incredible bound of 82 on the 16th of March[1]. In the last 5 years the highest value of VIX has been 30, with an average of 15. Observing its time series, we notice that the value was even higher than the severe crisis in 2008.


VIX trend since 2007

Undeniably, the first quarter in 2020 was one of the worst in the history and, for severity, can be only compared with the one of the financial crisis in 1929. Nonetheless, we do have elements to believe that the coronavirus effects are still not fully embedded in the stock prices. There are two crucial factors to consider.

Firstly, before the coronavirus, analysts were expecting a market correction. It was estimated that financial markets were deeply overvalued (market value was extremely higher than the fundamental value). For example, the S&P500 intrinsic value was evaluated to be around 20% lower than its market price and, as of the 7th of April, the American index has left around 18% on the floor from the beginning of the crisis.

s&P500 trend since January 2020

The second factor concerns the oil price war between the UAE and Russia which has dramatically contributed to a further decrease in the stock market. To face the drastic reduction in oil consumption (demand) due to the global lockdown, oil producers should have cut their production (offer) to support the price. Unfortunately, because of political issues, the two countries did the opposite, started to produce more barrels per day, generating turbulence while uncertainty mounted. The inevitable consequence was a critical drop in the oil price, which has more than halved in just a few weeks. Last Thursday (2nd of April), Trump’s tweet concerning the agreement between the UAE and Russia drove the oil price rally and future[2] prices gained around 30% in just a few days. In any case, the crucial meeting was the OPEC+ where, exceptionally, were invited Texas and Canada and it was signed an agreement to cut the oil production of 10 million barrel per day. Despite that, according to Rystad Energy[3] (a valuable independent energy research company), the global Capital Expenditures (CapEx) – measure of the amount invested by a firm in renovating or maintaining its properties, buildings, industrial plants, technologies or equipment – for exploration and production firms is expected to drop by up to $100 billion this year, around 17% versus 2019 levels. In 2021 the drop could be subjected to a further intensification since many companies (i.e. Eni) have already announced that the CapEx reduction will increase to 30-35%[4]. The oil crisis has already characterized some troubles: McDermott, one of the main firms in the industry, announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, canceling all shares of common stock.After these considerations, we should wonder whether the market value is currently offering a discounted price. Nowadays the answer is very uncertain, but as we have explained, it is very likely that the coronavirus effects have not been discounted in the stock prices. In addition, the results of the first quarter of 2020 have not been released yet. Together with the probable negative outcomes, the outlook for most of the companies and the recent downgrades given by the rating agencies, make reasonable to believe that the market is still expensive, probably more than before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The equity market is not the only one that is suffering the crisis. The shock provoked by the coronavirus generated what the Financial Times has defined as “the seeds of the next debt crisis”. According to the Institute of International Finance[5], the ratio of total debt over Global Domestic Product reached 322% in the third quarter of 2019. During the last ten years, companies have gorged on cheap borrowings, but rating agencies’ estimations demonstrate how a global health crisis may push to an immediate reassessment of the credit risk, arising doubts about companies’ quality: stability and ability to generate cash flow in the short and medium-term. Also, in the debt market, the oil price war has led most of the oil and energy companies’ bonds to the distressed area[6].

Notwithstanding, financially speaking, every cloud has a silver lining. Indeed, this period will open the window to many M&A – Mergers and Acquisitions – opportunities. Discounted equity prices and a worsened debt structure may create occasions for companies with strong fundamentals. Solid companies with strong cash generation capacity may exploit the favorable environment to target businesses with a long-term positive outlook but with current solvency and liquidity problems.

Finally, the comprehension of gold price movements during the tumultuous period is of great importance. Gold is defined as a safe haven asset or defensive asset since it should outperform during recession periods and limit the downward pressure. Despite that, at the first glance, it seems that the metal has disappointed expectations. The recent sell-off has negatively characterized the gold performance which has undergone a contradictory result. However, the gold price changes are coherent with the history in periods of extreme volatility. It is very common that fund managers look for liquidity when markets are very volatile in order to fulfill margin calls of the riskiest assets. During the financial crisis in 2008, the gold price has decreased by almost 20% before climbing back to a value of 170% higher in 2011[7]. The gold price declined at the beginning because of liquidity restrictions, but, after the liquidity injection from central banks in the financial systems, it moved up in the traditional way. We can expect similar behavior in the forthcoming months.

Gold price path since 2007

Beyond any doubts, the coronavirus has highlighted how our lives are interconnected. The pandemic has caused a global lockdown and half of the world population is in quarantine. People are changing their lifestyle, changing how they work, socialize, play, talk and learn. The health crisis will inevitably influence economically and financially entire industries, affecting the world permanently. Some sectors, such as tourism, automotive, airlines, will suffer the most from the global instability, facing the hardest challenge. Despite that, nowadays, we are still not fully aware of the effects that the coronavirus will bring to the market but a substantial effect on both demand and supply are expected in the upcoming months. Thus, it is reasonable to forecast an additional discount on the market in the future.

written by Gianlorenzo Zeccolella


[2] Futures are contracts which allow two counterparties to agree on exchanging a certain stock – or other financial asset – on a certain future date for a price fixed at the agreement date. The value of a future can be determined from the comparison between the strike price, fixed at the agreement, and the actual value on the market of the underlying asset at the settlement date. Future contracts are the main instruments traded for the oil




[6] Financial distress is a situation in which a firm is not able to meet its financial obligations. In these conditions, it might unable to payback its debt or just a portion of it.


Banking Union: a step for more stability

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Giovanni Sgaravatti

The Banking Union is a set of rules, established to strengthen the European financial system. Its main components are the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and the Single Resolutory Mechanism (SRM). Their focus is on preventing and managing banks’ crises.

The Single Supervisory Mechanism monitors banking activity to increase the solidity of the financial system. It reduces the risk of banks’ crises, which are threats for the economic stability of the single States and the entire Union. Mainly, the SSM checks and guarantees that the Euro-Area banks have enough liquidity to absorb potential losses coming from wrong strategic decisions of the management or from crises.

European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

On the other hand, the Single Resolutory Mechanism is applied when a bank is already facing a crisis or financial distress is considered very likely. The objective is to manage the bankruptcy of a single institute in the least harmful way for the financial system and the people. The SRM functioning has been conceived to increase responsibility in the banking system. Banks must manage carefully their financial resources, maintaining a sustainable level of exposure to risk. Besides, it is crucial for the regulators to avoid contagion effects, namely the risk that the bankruptcy of a bank affects the stability of other banks and institutions.

A debated element of SRM regulation is the so-called “bail-in” mechanism that does not allow to the State, except for special situations, to buy out banks that are close to default. Under “bail-in” regulation, when a bank is going bankrupt the costs of the failure is not only paid by the shareholders, bondholders too may be involved if necessary. A reason in favour of “bail-in” is that it encourages banks to be prudent, reducing hazardous behaviours of the management. Indeed, the achievement of high returns in investments requires a higher exposure to risk. This does not always lead to positive outcomes, but if someone, external to the bank, is available to cover the losses or save the bank in hard times, then the drawbacks will be less harmful. Management can be less worried about losses and bankruptcy risk. “Bail-in” works exactly against this inefficiency.

The main alternative is the “bailout”. In this case, the State would intervene, using taxpayers’ money to fix the bank management inefficiencies and mistakes. Some countries, Italy is an example, could have a dramatic growth of public debt because of “bailout”, especially if the default involves big national banks. Another possibility to solve the crisis of a bank is the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, a fund created collecting capital from all the banks of the system. In Italy, such a fund, the Fondo Interbancario per la Tutela dei Depositi (FITD), is used to cover the depositors from losses in case of bank distress. Depositors are covered up to 100,000 euro. Theoretically, tools of this sort could be used also to prevent catastrophic effects deriving from big banks’ failures.

Banking Union: Member countries in blue.

Banking Union has faced many criticisms, especially raised by small and medium entrepreneurs, who blame it for the limited access to credit of these recent years. This is partially true. After the Basel agreements and the birth of SSM in 2014, banks have become more and more cautious in supplying credit. However, such inefficiencies are not completely ascribable to European regulation, for example, Italian banks were not always supplying credit in a transparent and trustworthy way. In 2015 in Italy, Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) (i.e. debts which are unlikely to be paid back) were as much as 16% of the total. The EU average is 3.4%. Moreover, 70% of these NPLs were distributed to 4.7% of debtors with an average value of 2.2 million euro per loan. Hence, small entrepreneurs have reasons to complain, the malfunctioning of the system is certainly not their fault.

However, it is important to stress that the drastic rules imposed on the banking system to increase capital reserves and creditworthiness’ standards have been crucial to increasing the solidity of the Italian economy. The failure of a bank causes damages to investors, depositors, entrepreneurs and (with “bailout”) also to taxpayers.
Finally, among the benefits of the banking union it is also worth mentioning the SEPA, Single European Payment Area, which involves 36 countries and allows to make bank transfers easily, only using the IBAN.

In conclusion, the banking union appears to be a source of advantages to the Italian economy much more than a cause of drawbacks. Restrictions are a requirement for stability, and recent history should have taught us that a stable banking and financial system should be preferred to one little regulated.

Michele Corio, Giovanni Sgaravatti
With special thanks to Beatrice Armanini

Qual è il ruolo delle agenzie di rating nell’economia?

Gianlorenzo Zeccolella

Gianlorenzo Zeccolella

L’attuale situazione finanziaria riserva un ruolo speciale alle agenzie di rating, le quali possono condizionare attivamente e, in alcuni casi, minare la stabilità del mercato finanziario.

Sia nell’Unione europea che negli Stati Uniti, il numero delle agenzie di rating è molto circoscritto. Il settore è caratterizzato da poche aziende che operano in un mercato senza concorrenza. Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s e Fitch Group, i cosiddetti “Big Three“, detengono circa il 92% della quota di mercato [1]. La loro funzione è quella di assegnare rating, indicatori essenziali per valutare la solidità sia dei paesi che delle aziende. Queste valutazioni sono di cruciale importanza in quanto contribuiscono a determinare la possibilità di accedere a nuove risorse di capitale nazionali e internazionali. 


Diverse società, prima di emettere un’obbligazione, chiedono alle agenzie di rating di valutare gli strumenti finanziari e di assegnare un rating (spesso obbligati dalla legislazione), che di conseguenza autorizza l’allocazione sul mercato. Inoltre, non tutti gli investitori valutano direttamente la qualità del credito di società e Paesi prima di investire. Molti si affidano ai giudizi delle agenzie di rating. 

Maggiore è la qualità del credito, maggiore sarà il rating. Oltre a garantire un minor costo del capitale, un rating elevato consente una maggiore capacità di finanziarsi sul mercato emettendo nuovo debito. La scala va da un massimo livello AAA, a D, che significa Default (gli indicatori sono leggermente diversi per Moody’s. Osservare la tabella successiva). Le società con rating BBB- o superiore si trovano nella cosiddetta area investment-grade mentre quelle con rating inferiori alla soglia BBB- si trovano nella zona di rating speculativo (definita anche “junk” o non non-investment).

Moody’sStandard & Poor’sFitchDescription
AaaAAAAAAInvestment Grade
Ba1BB+BB+Speculative Grade


L’altro aspetto che può essere osservato analizzando i rating è il rischio contenuto in un investimento. Chiaramente, un emittente di debito – generalmente uno Stato o una società – che abbia un’alta qualità del credito e un rating elevato sarà un investimento più sicuro di un altro con un rating di tipo speculativo.

Gli investitori istituzionali, come i fondi pensione, i fondi comuni di investimento e le banche hanno diverse restrizioni sulle quantità di rischio che possono (e sono disposti) a sopportare.

Questo è in parte dovuto alla regolamentazione. I risparmiatori investono i loro soldi in un fondo pensione per garantirsi la possibilità di vivere rispettabilmente dopo il pensionamento, senza alcun interesse ad essere esposti ad attività speculative. Inoltre, anche la strategia di investimento è rilevante. In effetti, ogni portafoglio è costruito perseguendo determinati obiettivi. Nel settore finanziario, le due determinanti fondamentali vengono definite in termini di rendimenti attesi e rischio. Gli investitori, scegliendo di utilizzare il proprio denaro per acquistare strumenti finanziari, anziché spenderlo in beni di consumo o in servizi, dovrebbero ricevere una remunerazione adeguata, proporzionale al livello di rischio che stanno correndo. Tuttavia, la maggior parte di loro non accetterebbe il rischio di perdere gran parte del proprio capitale inseguendo alti rendimenti. A tal proposito, una vasta maggioranza degli investitori non sarà disposta a investire gran parte della propria ricchezza in obbligazioni governative o societarie a basso rating.


In aggiunta, quando uno Stato viene declassato, l’impatto sul costo del prestito può essere molto significativo, specialmente se i suoi precedenti rating erano già bassi. Passare dai punteggi più bassi dell’area investment-grade all’area speculative grade può causare l’esclusione dai principali indici dei titoli di Stato e, quindi, dai portafogli di molti investitori istituzionali. Ciò genera non solo un drammatico aumento del costo del denaro sui mercati, ma può ridurre seriamente la capacità dell’emittente di finanziare ulteriori spese con debito. Oggi, secondo Moody’s e Fitch, l’Italia è solo un gradino sopra l’area spazzatura e la crisi rischia di comprometterne l’affidabilità creditizia.

CountryS&P’sMoody’sFitch10 years government bond yield
United StatesAA+AaaAAA1.12%
United KingdomAAAa3AA-0.29%
New ZealandAAAaaAA1.07%
South KoreaAAAa2AA-1.72%
ArgentinaCCC+CaCCC51.23% (7 years maturity )

Osservando i rating e i rendimenti dei titoli di Stato riportati nella tabella sopra, si nota che anche altri fattori influenzano il rendimento delle obbligazioni. In effetti, l’Italia ha rating simili alla Russia, ma un costo del debito nettamente più basso.

L’intervento della Banca Centrale Europea (BCE) ha avuto un ruolo fondamentale nel mantenere piuttosto bassi i rendimenti sui titoli di Stato di molti Paesi europei, specialmente dell’Italia. La BCE realizza la propria politica monetaria servendosi di vari canali. È utile menzionare le operazioni di mercato aperto e i diversi programmi di acquisto di titoli sul mercato (APP)[2]. Questi strumenti permettono alla Banca Centrale di prestare liquidità a basso costo a banche e istituzioni finanziarie dell’Eurosistema. In cambio le banche devono fornire dei collaterali come garanzia, ad esempio dei titoli di Stato. Attraverso questi meccanismi la BCE acquista bond governativi dei Paesi UE, riducendo la pressione sui rendimenti di questi titoli e di conseguenza il loro costo del debito.

Tuttavia, i titoli di Stato per poter essere usati come garanzia in queste operazioni devono avere alcuni requisiti fondamentali [3]. Uno di questi è che abbiano un rating non inferiore al livello minimo per essere nell’investment-grade area. Altrimenti, nello scenario peggiore, la BCE non sarebbe più in grado di detenere questi titoli, né di comprarli. Dal 7 Aprile 2020 la Banca Centrale Europea ha deciso di alleggerire i requisiti necessari per l’idoneità dei collaterali. Questa misura è stata presa per ridurre i rischi legati a possibili downgrade dovuti alla crisi del coronavirus. Ad oggi tutti gli strumenti finanziari negoziati su mercati regolamentati e le emittenti che al 7 Aprile si trovavano almeno nell’area investment grade, restano eleggibili anche in caso di downgrade, anche qualora dovessero arrivare a livello spazzatura, fino ai primi due livelli della speculative grade area [4]. Ad ogni modo, solo il fatto che l’idoneità degli strumenti finanziari a svolgere il ruolo di collaterali nei programmi della BCE sia legato ai rating dimostra la rilevanza e il peso delle agenzie di rating nei mercati finanziari.


Le agenzie di rating assegnano un giudizio considerando diversi aspetti del debitore:

  1. Capacità di ripagare i prestiti (capitale e interessi)
  2. Capacità di ripagare il debito in tempo.
  3. Probabilità che l’obbligato non riesca a pagare e faccia default.

Studiate queste ampie categorie gli analisti possono attribuire un rating che rappresenta il merito creditizio della società.

Recentemente le principali società di rating hanno acquisito una grande importanza nei mercati finanziari e di capitali. Allo stesso tempo sono state anche oggetto di numerose critiche. Le maggiori e più illustri agenzie di rating creditizio – Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch – oggi hanno una forte influenza sui mercati finanziari e di capitali. Le loro valutazioni sulla qualità della struttura finanziaria di una società costituiscono un elemento fondamentale per stimare il prezzo del rischio di credito, il quale a sua volta determina il costo del capitale interno ed esterno alla società.

Tuttavia, la questione fondamentale è che le agenzie di rating potrebbero avere alcuni incentivi a fornire un rating “gonfiato”. Il problema nasce dal fatto che le agenzie non sono pagate dagli investitori ma dalle stesse società che richiedono la valutazione del proprio merito creditizio (i debitori). Coloro che emettono titoli di debito, gli stessi che pagano l’agenzia di rating, vorrebbero certamente che gli sia assegnato un rating alto così da dimostrare la propria stabilità finanziaria e mantenere il costo del debito basso . Non è difficile comprendere che questo meccanismo può generare conflitti di interesse. Visto che è la compagnia che chiede la valutazione a pagare l’agenzia di rating, questa tenderà probabilmente a dare un rating alto.

La diffusione di prodotti strutturati come le Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) – titoli garantiti da ipoteche su immobili – sta aumentando in modo significativo da diversi anni, soprattutto negli Stati Uniti. Il tasso di default su questi titoli – ovvero la probabilità che il capitale prestato non venga ripagato – è risultato molto più elevato di quanto si sarebbe potuto ricavare dal valore intrinseco degli strumenti. Tuttavia, spacchettando tali prodotti strutturati, spesso sarebbero stati trovati nella sua composizione, quote di singoli asset di scarso valore che, però, cartolarizzati e uniti in un nuovo prodotto davano sorprendentemente vita a un prodotto finanziario con un rating alto. Tutte queste problematiche hanno avuto un ruolo critico nel causare la crisi dei mutui subprime del 2008. 

Inoltre, un altro aspetto rilevante è la presenza di insormontabili barriere all’entrata del mercato delle agenzie di rating creditizio. Il mercato è dominato da 3 società ed è a tutti gli effetti un sistema oligopolistico. Le società leader del settore possono accordarsi e fare cartello per aumentare i prezzi per accedere ai propri servizi e impedire ad altre società di accedere al mercato. Inoltre, le agenzie di rating creditizio dominando il mercato hanno anche maggiore libertà di offrire rating gonfiati, con poca competizione nel mercato. Se ciò accadesse, sarebbe difficile per il regolatore e per gli enti di controllo scoprire se alcune valutazioni controverse derivino da mutate condizioni economiche  o da strategie collusive. 


E’ fondamentale creare schemi di incentivi per motivare queste imprese a evitare comportamenti collusivi. Un’idea potrebbe essere istituire un dipartimento pubblico di rating nelle maggiori istituzioni internazionali (FMI o Banche centrali ad esempio) che può valutare il merito creditizio delle società. Le valutazioni di questi dipartimenti potrebbero essere confrontate con quelle delle agenzie di rating per controllare se ci sono eventuali scostamenti significativi. Se ci sono valutazioni sospette il regolatore potrebbe revocare la licenza di operare nel settore del rating creditizio all’agenzia per il futuro. Queste misure potrebbero sembrare poco realistiche, infatti sembra difficile pensare che in caso di valutazioni poco chiare si possa arrivare a ritirare la licenza a Moody’s, Standard&Poor’s e Fitch visto il loro potere di mercato[5].

Nonostante le criticità e gli aspetti negativi del mercato dei rating e delle attività delle agenzie, non dobbiamo dimenticarci della loro importanza. I rating creditizi forniscono informazioni essenziali e sintetiche che possono essere molto utili agli investitori per prendere decisioni. 

Michele Corio e Gianlorenzo Zeccolella






[5] Stolper, A., 2009. Regulation of credit rating agencies. Journal of Banking & Finance 33, 1266–1273.

Usciremo più forti della crisi del Coronavirus?


Mentre la Cina si riprende ed è ancora nella più grande crisi sanitaria e epidemia della sua storia, il virus che porta il simpatico nome di Covid-19 ha trovato un nuovo focolaio infettivo in Europa. Una situazione che non pensavamo possibile nelle nostre società democratiche e sviluppate sta comunque succedendo. Abbiamo l’impressione di vivere in un romanzo di fantascienza, o meglio, in una distopia. Quello che noi, giovani europei, mai e poi mai avremmo pensato di vedere della nostra vita, lo stiamo vivendo ora: la libertà che caratterizza le nostre società è fortemente limitata; le frontiere che sono state abolite dai nostri genitori e nonni sono oggi richiuse; le forze dell’ordine sono nelle strade per controllare i nostri movimenti; ma soprattutto, la scienza, che pensavamo arrivata al punto più alto del suo sviluppo, sembra deluderci.

Questa crisi sanitaria è ovviamente più di una pura crisi sanitaria. È anche una crisi economica, politica, sociale – insomma una crisi umana. Al di lá dell’inquietudine che è giusto sentire in tale situazione, è altresí interessante notare come la società occidentale si stia scontrando contro un muro, muro che sarebbe apparso all’improviso e che, nell’emergenza, la costringe a ripensare il suo modo intero di funzionare, di esistere.

Il primo elemento caratteristico delle società globalizzate che il Covid-19 sta rimettendo in discussione è, ovviamente, il modello economico, sia capitalista che mondializzato. Quando la crisi sanitaria colpisce “la fabbrica del mondo”, che è anche una delle economie più potenti del pianeta, non è soltanto una città, nemmeno solo un paese, ma é il mondo intero che ne subisce le conseguenze. Il commercio mondiale e la produzione sono rallentati, a volte fino a fermarsi. Poi di conseguenza, quando Europa e altri grandi attori dell’economia mondiale, come Stati Uniti o Iran, vengono colpiti a loro volta, quello che era già successo in Cina si riproduce – ma con dimenzioni più vaste. Le grande Borse mondiali, già indebolite da febbraio, sono crollate due volte da quando il virus è arrivato in Europa e negli Stati Uniti, provocando un “lunedì nero” il 9 marzo, e un secondo crollo il 12 marzo. Le borse Europee e degli Stati Uniti registrano infatti il 9 marzo il loro peggior risultato dalla crisi economica del 2008. Il 12 marzo, l’indice della borsa di Parigi, il “CAC 40”, e quello della borsa di Milano, registrano la diminuzione più grande della loro storia, rispettivamente -12.3% e -16.92%. L’indice tedesco, “DAX”, seguiva da vicino (-11.4%). La borsa di Wall Street si è fermata due volte per 15 minuti, prima di conoscere il 16 marzo la sua peggiora giornata dal 1987. Questa crisi finanziara ha necessitato l’intervento della Federal Reserve e della Banca Centrale Europea, che hanno tutti e due annunciato delle misure straordinarie per fornire liquidità ai sistemi finanziari, e per tranquilizzare i mercati. Ciononostante, l’instabilità finanziara continua e, presto, altre misure economiche dovrebbero esser prese dagli Stati Uniti e dell’Europa. Giá l’atmosfera era tesa ed inquieta nel mondo intero allora, adesso viene resa ancor peggiore dai disaccordi tra la Russia e l’Iran sui prezzi del petrolio. La domanda che dobbiamo farci ora, davanti a questo disastro economico (che sta soltanto iniziando), riguarda dunque la fondatezza di questo sistema nel quale viviamo e sul quale poggiamo. Come continuare ad assicurare l’apporto di materiale e di cibo vitali per la sussistenza e il conforto minimo di ciascuno, quando questi sono basati su un commercio di livello internazionale che è temporaneamente mutilato?

L’insufficienza delle risorse nazionali (ma anche continentali), e l’incapacità degli Stati di produrre alcuni materiali indipendentemente dagli altri paesi, ma anche il fatto che viviamo in una società dei consumi abituata ad avere a portata di mano tutto ciò che esiste, mostrano bene i limiti del nostro sistema economico attuale. Numerose aziende hanno dovuto riqualificarsi per continuare a fornire a tutti il minimo indispensabile. È il caso, recentemente, di LVMH, che ha trasformato alcuni dei suoi siti francesi in fabbriche di produzione di gel idroalcolico, che cominciava a scarseggiare in Francia. Ma l’ha potuto fare soltanto grazie al fatto che aveva i mezzi finanziari e pratici per farlo. In ogni caso, tutto quello che sta succedendo ci mostra che, visto che ci siamo allontanati dai modelli di produzione, di commercio e di consumo locali, ci troviamo ora in una situazione inquietante, causata da una crisi internazionale. La disfatta parziale del nostro sistema attuale è venuta tanto a galla che stiamo vivendo una presa di coscienza ecologica che sostiene da anni, appunto, la necessitá di un modello di consumo e di produzione più locale. È quindi stata necessario vivere una grande crisi sanitaria per ripensare il sistema e per sottolineare i suoi limiti. Dobbiamo sperare che usciremo da questa crisi più coscienti di questi limiti e pronti a modificarli – e perfino a rinunciarci se necessario.


Ovviamente, anche la democrazia soffre dell’epidemia del Covid-19. Questo modello di società che sottolinea le libertà individuale sta affrontando delle difficoltà evidenti, legate al fatto che si ritrova a dipendere dal civismo e dalla risponsabilità individuale per lottare contro il virus. È questa la situazione in cui si ritrovano Italiani e Spagnoli, popoli così tanto “esterni”, cosí abituati a stare fuori dalle proprie abitazioni, sono stati obbligati a rinchiudersi in casa – rassegnandosi a volte con difficoltà e con l’uso di misure punitive preventive. Ma questo é anche il caso della Francia, che ha cercato di rinviare le misure di confinamento fino all’ultimo momento; prima di dover finalmente decidersi, visto che un gran numero di francesi continuava ancora a muoversi come se niente fosse, sicura di aver tutti i diritti di muoversi liberamente. Il paragone col confinamento imposto in Cina, paese autoritario, ha sottolineato la difficoltà delle democrazie moderne di far fronte a queste misure drastiche e contrarie ai loro valori. Tra l’altro, in Francia, una crisi nella sanitá pubblica era giá in corso da alcuni mesi. È stato necessario l’arrivo di una pandemia affinché i dottori e il personale ospedaliero riuscissero a farsi sentire dal governo. Oggi, tutta l’attenzione del governo va finalmente a loro, e possiamo soltanto sperare che questo paese uscirà più forte della crisi: con un governo che avrà finalmente capito l’importanza del prendersi cura del suo sistema sanitario; che avrà capito che una società democratica degna di questo nome non può funzionare bene se i suoi medici, infermieri e inservienti soffrono.

Il terzo elemento caratteristicco delle società moderne che è messo a dura prova è il progresso scientifico. L’Uomo occidentale del ventunesimo secolo, nato in una società costruita sull’avanzata della tecnologia e della medicina, ha probabilmente avuto la tendenza troppo forte a credersi invincibile. Rafforzato dai progressi della medicina, abituato a sapere e conoscere sempre di più, nato in una situazione di confort senza precedenti grazie al progresso tecnologico, l’uomo occidentale del ventunesimo secolo è stato come violentemente schiaffeggiato in piena faccia. Quello che pensava possibile soltanto in Africa (che sta ancora lottando contro Ebola) o in Asia – insomma, soltanto nei paesi emergenti – é comunque giunto fino a lui: una pandemia potrebbe ucciderlo. Che si rassicuri: la sua generazione non sparirà, e la maggior parte di noi dovrebbe cavarsela sano e salvo. Ma è una paura ancestrale che ricompare, quella di una lotta contro un nemico invisibile, contro il quale non possiamo combattere perché non possediamo le armi giuste. È la paura di morire, o di guardare coloro che amiamo morire, e di non poter fare nulla. È sentirsi infinatemente impotente. È sentirsi corpo prima di tutto, quando sempre proviamo a convincerci che siamo solo anima. Sentirsi corpo, e quindi rendersi conto dei limiti e debolezze di esso. L’uomo occidentale del ventunesimo secolo dovrebbe allora uscire cambiato da questa pandemia, nel suo rapporto con la scienza, ma sopratutto nel suo rapporto con se stesso e con la sua identità.

In fine, l’ultimo elemento, ma non meno importante, messo a dura prova dalla pandemia di Covid-19, è la libertà di circolazione; il principio delle frontiere aperte che si trova alla base dell’Unione Europea. Questo principio è giá stato messo a dura prova mnegli ultimi anni dalla crisi migratoria, vera sfida dell’Europa e degli Stati Uniti, e dalla rinascita dei nazionalismi mei vari Stati. Eppure è oggi davvero messo in discussione, mentre gli Stati che si barricano sono sempre più numerosi. Questo sarà la grande sfida del “vecchio continente” durante questa crisi sanitaria: dimostrare che la chiusura delle frontiere non è una buona soluzione a lunga durata, e che non deve dividerci – invece al contrario dobbiamo unirci per lottare contro un nemico comune a tutti.

Laura Poiret

Sortirons-nous plus forts de la crise du Covid-19?

Alors que la Chine est tout juste en train de se relever de ce qui fut et est encore une des plus grosses crises sanitaires et épidémiques de son histoire, le virus qui porte le joli nom de Covid-19 a maintenant trouvé un nouveau foyer en Europe. Une situation que nous ne pensions pas possible dans nos sociétés démocratiques et développées a alors pris forme, et nous avons l’impression de vivre au cœur d’un roman d’anticipation, voire une dystopie. Ce que nous, jeunes Européens, ne pensions probablement jamais voir de notre vivant, nous sommes pourtant en train de le vivre : la liberté qui caractérise nos sociétés est fortement restreinte ; les frontières qui ont été abolies par nos parents et grands-parents sont refermées ; les forces de l’ordre sont dans la rue pour contrôler nos déplacements ; mais surtout, la science que nous pensions plus développée que jamais à ce stade de l’histoire de l’humanité, semble nous faire défaut.

Cette crise sanitaire est donc bien évidemment plus que cela. C’est aussi une crise économique, politique, sociale, en somme une crise humaine. En dehors de l’inquiétude qu’il convient d’avoir en ce genre de période, il reste assez intéressant de noter que la plupart des sociétés occidentales sont en train de faire face à un mur, qui serait apparu soudainement et qui, dans l’urgence, les oblige à repenser leur mode entier de fonctionner, d’exister.

Le premier élément caractéristique des sociétés mondialisées que le Covid-19 est venu remettre en question est bien entendu le modèle économique, à la fois capitaliste et mondialisé. Lorsque la crise sanitaire vient frapper « l’usine du monde », mais aussi l’une des plus puissantes et actives économies de la planète, ce n’est pas seulement une ville, ni même un pays, mais le monde entier qui en ressent les conséquences. Les échanges commerciaux sont ralentis, parfois à un point critique ; mais la production l’est aussi. Puis, lorsque l’Europe et d’autres grands acteurs de l’économie mondiale, comme les Etats-Unis ou l’Iran, se retrouvent touchés à leur tour, ce qui avait déjà été constaté au niveau chinois s’applique à nouveau – mais avec une plus grande ampleur. Jusqu’ici, les grandes bourses mondiales s’étaient déjà bien affaiblies en février, avant de s’effondrer à deux reprises lorsque le virus est arrivé en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, provoquant d’abord un « lundi noir » le 09 mars, puis un second effondrement le 12 mars. Les marchés boursiers européens et étatsuniens enregistraient en effet le 9 mars leur pire séance depuis la crise économique de 2008. Le 12 mars, l’indice de la bourse de Paris, le « CAC 40 », et celui de la bourse de Milan déploraient la plus forte baisse de leur histoire, respectivement – 12.3%, et -16.92%. L’indice allemand, « DAX », suivait de près (-11.4%). La bourse de Wall Street s’est arrêtée, à deux reprises, pendant 15 minutes, avant de connaître le 16 mars sa pire journée depuis 1987. Cette crise financière a nécessité l’intervention de la Réserve Fédérale et de la Banque Centrale Européenne, qui ont tous deux annoncé des mesures extraordinaires pour fournir de la liquidité aux systèmes financiers et apaiser les marchés. Cependant, l’instabilité financière persiste et d’autres mesures économiques devraient bientôt être prises par les Etats-Unis et l’Union Européenne. L’atmosphère était donc tendue et inquiète dans le monde entier, en plus d’être aggravée par des désaccords entre la Russie et l’Iran sur le cours du prix du pétrole. La question qui se pose alors à nous, face à cette catastrophe économique (qui n’en est d’ailleurs sûrement qu’à ses débuts), est sur le bien-fondé de ce système dans lequel nous vivons et sur lequel nous reposons. Comment continuer à assurer l’apport en matériel et nourriture vitaux pour la subsistance et le confort minimal de chaque individu, lorsque ceux-ci reposent sur un commerce d’échelle mondiale, temporairement amputé et arrêté ? L’insuffisance de ressources nationales (voire même continentales), et l’incapacité des Etats à produire certains matériaux indépendamment des autres pays ; le tout dans une société de consommation habituée à avoir à portée de main tous les aliments ou objets existants, démontre bien des limites de notre système économique actuel. De nombreuses entreprises ont dû se reconvertir pour continuer à fournir les éléments de première nécessité. C’est le cas, très récemment, de LVMH, qui a transformé plusieurs de ses sites français en usines de fabrication de gel hydroalcoolique, en pénurie en France. Mais il faut bien se rappeler que celle-ci n’a pu le faire que parce qu’elle en avait les moyens financiers et pratiques. Malgré tout, cela montre bien que, puisque nous nous sommes éloignés des modèles de production, de vente et de consommation locaux, nous nous retrouvons maintenant dans une situation inquiétante, provoquée par une crise internationale. Alors que, en parallèle, nous sommes au cœur d’une prise de conscience écologique qui met en avant, justement, ce mode de consommation et de production locaux, la défaite partielle du système actuel n’en est que plus criante. Il aura donc suffi d’une grosse crise sanitaire, non pas pour mettre fin au modèle de la mondialisation et du capitalisme, mais au moins pour le remettre en question et mettre en lumière ses limites. Il faut alors espérer que nous ressortirons de cette crise conscients de celles-ci et prêt à les modifier – voire à y renoncer si la nécessité s’en fait ressentir.


 Bien entendu, c’est aussi la démocratie qui souffre de l’épidémie de Covid-19. Ce modèle de société qui met en avant les libertés individuelles a fait face à des difficultés évidentes lorsqu’il a fallu compter sur le civisme et la responsabilité individuelle de chacun pour faire face à la crise sanitaire. Ce fut le cas pour les Italiens et les Espagnols, peuples si « extérieurs », qui se sont vus forcés de s’enfermer – s’y résignant tant bien que mal et parfois avec l’usage de moyens pénitentiaires préventifs.   Ce fut le cas aussi en France, qui a tenté de repousser les mesures de confinement jusqu’au dernier moment ; devant finalement s’y résoudre face à une foule de français certains de leur légitimité à se déplacer librement. La comparaison avec le confinement imposé en Chine, pays autoritaire, a mis en avant les difficultés pour les démocraties modernes de faire face à des mesures aussi drastiques et contraires à leurs valeurs que celles-ci. Par ailleurs, en France, qui souffrait depuis plusieurs mois d’une crise hospitalière importante, il aura fallu attendre l’apparition d’une épidémie sans précédent pour que les médecins et personnels hospitaliers se fassent finalement entendre. Toute l’attention du gouvernement leur est enfin accordée, et on ne peut qu’espérer que ce pays sortira de cette crise plus fort qu’à son entrée – avec un gouvernement qui aura finalement compris l’importance de prendre soin de son système de santé ; et qui aura compris aussi qu’une société démocratique digne de ce nom ne peut fonctionner si ses médecins, ses infirmières et ses aides-soignants souffrent.

Le troisième élément caractéristique des sociétés modernes qui est remis en question à cause de cette crise sanitaire historique, est bien entendu le progrès et le confort scientifiques. L’homme occidental du XXIème siècle, issu d’une société aux avancées technologiques et scientifiques prodigieuses, a peut-être eu trop tendance à se croire invincible. Renforcé par les progrès de la médecine, habitué à savoir et connaître toujours plus, et né dans un confort sans précédent grâce aux avancées technologiques, il est aujourd’hui comme frappé violemment en plein visage. Ce qu’il ne croyait possible qu’en Afrique (encore frappée par Ebola il y a peu) ou en Asie – en somme dans les sociétés encore en développement – surgit finalement chez lui aussi : une pandémie va peut-être le tuer. Qu’il se rassure : sa génération ne sera pas la dernière, et la plupart d’entre nous s’en sortiront sans séquelles physiques. Mais c’est une peur ancestrale qui ressurgit, celle d’un combat contre un ennemi invisible, contre lequel nous ne pouvons nous battre parce que nous ne possédons pas les bonnes armes. C’est la peur de mourir, ou de voir ses proches mourir, et de ne rien pouvoir faire. Se sentir infiniment impuissant. Enfin, se sentir corps avant tout, alors qu’on essaie avec tant de force de se convaincre que nous ne sommes qu’âme. Se sentir corps, et donc se rendre compte des limites et des faiblesses de celui-ci. L’homme occidental du XXIème siècle devrait donc sortir changé de cette pandémie, dans son rapport à la science, mais surtout dans son rapport à lui-même et à son identité.

Et enfin, le dernier élément, mais non des moindres, qui est mis en difficulté par la pandémie de Covid-19 est bien entendu la libre circulation, le principe des frontières ouvertes au cœur des valeurs de l’Union Européennes. Celui-ci est bien entendu déjà mis à mal depuis plusieurs années par la crise migratoire, véritable défi de l’Europe et des Etats-Unis, et la résurgence des nationalismes. Il est cependant complètement remis en question à présent, alors que les Etats qui se barricadent sont de plus en plus nombreux. Ce sera donc pour le « vieux continent » un des plus grands défis de cette crise sanitaire : prouver que la fermeture des frontières n’est pas une solution sur le long-terme, et qu’elle ne doit en aucun cas nous diviser – il faut au contraire s’unir pour se battre contre un ennemi commun à tous.

Laura Poiret


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