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Euro zone unemployment rises to record 10.8 percent

Joblessness in the euro zone rose to an all-time high of 10.8 percent in February, following 10 consecutive months of increases that have taken the largest toll on the currency bloc's most heavily indebted southern countries.

Some unexpected positive news for euro zone and some expected negative news, as well, today.

The OECD has broken ranks with the IMF and the European Commission and predicted that the euro zone economy will avoid recession and grow a fraction this year, reports the FT.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for many in Greece nothing she says or does will ever be right. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images)

Nothing German Chancellor Angela Merkel says or does will ever satisfy some Greek politicians and their constituents. In a BBC interview today Merkel says, "We have taken the decision to be in a currency union. This is not only a monetary decision, it is a political one. It would be catastrophic if we were to say to one of those who have decided to be with us: 'We no longer want you'."

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Germany resists stronger euro crisis firewall

BRUSSELS, Belgium – With a new bailout to rescue Greece from the threat of default, the next pressing item on the save-the-euro agenda is to set up a trillion dollar firewall to defend other brittle economies from a Greek-style conflagration. Germany, however, is in no hurry.

European Union or U.S. of E?

Everyone hates the capital, states demand rights over their budgets... sounds like America, right?
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Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, is trying to get the Netherlands out of the euro and back to the guilder. (PHIL NIJHUIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In a different context yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, indulged in a bit cliche mongering, ""If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?" he asked his audience at AIPAC in connection with Iran's nuclear program.

You could ask the same questions about the European Union - just substitute the phrase "United States of Europe" for duck and you'll get my point.

Less than two working days after EU leaders signed a new fiscal compact limiting annual budget deficits to 3.5 percent of GDP. Individual states are already squawking.

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Look at this bag of insults. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

For the last three weeks I have been working on a series of articles that will appear on GlobalPost shorty about the alarming rise of xenophobic ultranationalism in eastern Europe. Nazi worship is not just for the fringe out there.

While I was on assignment the deal for Greece's second bail-out was agreed but I knew there would be plenty left in the story to blog about when I came back to it.

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Euro zone crisis: a pause for reflection

A Greek bail-out was agreed this week. Now what?
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The euro zone crisis at half-time, what's going to happen next? (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)

It's half-time in the euro zone crisis. So gather round and take a knee, and let's figure out what we've learned from the first half.

1. The bond markets work one way and the EU works another. Their methods are wholly incompatible. That's what caused the crisis to explode in the way it did. But a synthesis was reached between the two, because the EU's leaders ultimately showed the big institutional players in the bond market they were serious about tackling not just Greece's problems, but government deficits throughout the euro zone.

Government leaders who did not get with the program were removed. Once governance issues were resolved, the bond markets began to calm down.

This is a key lesson for American economic commentators to remember. Bond markets don't entirely rely on spread-sheet data. They care about unquantifiable things like good governance. Italy under Berlusconi was a joke, under Mario Monti it is a country whose governance gives hope of being as effective as its luxury goods businesses, which dominate their sector of world trade.

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Greece's debt turmoil is far from over

ATHENS, Greece — They contemplated a divorce but ended up having another baby. Greece and its euro zone partners saved their marriage by agreeing on a $170 billion bailout, but it hasn’t squashed talk of a messy breakup.

Warsaw - I'm in Warsaw on assignment and came across a very interesting interview in the current edition of the Warsaw Business Journal.  It's with Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first post-Communist Prime Minister of Poland and current adviser to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Here are some of the key points:

"There is a financial crisis in the euro zone. This has had a psychological effect on Poles, but I do not think it has had a fundamental influence on our attitude towards the European Union, which remains positive. There is a deep-rooted social awareness that the future of Poland is linked with the European Union, and the young generation does not remember the time when we fought for our membership of the EU, and treats it as a natural thing."

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European austerity by the numbers: in or out of the euro zone today's figures are grim.

Statistics prove yet again: cutting alone will not help an economy

The European economic numbers flow across my computer screen, not quite as quickly as the ticker tape crawl at CNBC or Bloomberg, but there are a lot of them and virtually every one is bad. And in or out of the euro zone, they all point to the same thing: austerity isn't working.

In Greece: the economy contracted by 7 percent in the last quarter. Since austerity budgets began to be implemented two years ago Greece's debt had jumped from 115 percent of GDP to 166 percent of GDP, the Guardian reports.

In Britain: Unemployment is at 8.4 percent according to the Office of National Statistics, a 16 year high (I have reported on other sources of unemployment statistics here).

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