Ridgefield High School team wins Euro Challenge, earns D.C. trip

The Euro Challenge Team includes Clare Skillman, Grace Maglieri, David Nica, Ryan McSpedon, Joseph Kaufman and Ben Muller.

The Euro Challenge Team includes Clare Skillman, Grace Maglieri, David Nica, Ryan McSpedon, Joseph Kaufman and Ben Muller.

The Ridgefield High School Euro Challenge Team recently returned from a two-day visit to Washington, D.C. members received for winning the Euro Challenge contest in April with their discussion of the banking crisis in Spain.

They presented their views to Spanish Economic and Commercial Counselor Gonzalo Garcia.

Sophomores Clare Skillman, David Nica, Joseph Kaufman, Grace Maglieri and Ben Muller worked diligently all year to prepare for the competition where close to 100 teams nationwide presented their views on the various topics of the European Union (EU). Ryan McSpedon helped create the PowerPoint presentation. They prepared a 15-minute speech and were ready for a 10-minute Q&A about Spain and the banking crisis, the EU and general economic questions.

The Euro Challenge is an educational opportunity for high school students to learn about the European Union. Student teams of three to five students are asked to make presentations answering specific questions about the European economy and the single currency, the euro. They are also asked to pick one member country of the “euro area” (the 17 EU member countries that have adopted the euro so far), to examine an economic problem at the country level, and to identify policies for responding to that problem.

The compete for monetary awards provided by The Moody’s Foundation.

The Ridgefield team described the economic conditions of the European Union, and thoroughly studied the European Central Banking system and the crisis in the EU. Clare Skillman said, “After barely recovering from the 2008 global recession, Europe’s banking crisis and sovereign debt problems became acute in 2010.”

Joe Kaufman added that “government spending fell as debt-laden nations slashed their budgets with fiscal austerity measures, which further contributed to economic slowdown.”

Grace Maglieri said Spain was liable for the debts of several regional governments. “Spain’s emergence as the crisis epicenter again fed debate over the value of austerity over stimulus. This has caused pain in many regions of the EU.”

Joe Kaufman explained how “the establishment of the euro gave bullish sentiments and a massive credit book in some euro zone countries like Spain and Ireland.” Ben Muller added, “Spain established SAREB for a quick and efficient siphoning of bad assets, in order to help create a healthy banking system. There is fear, though, that it will not do all that is promised. How can near worthless property be sold at an eventual profit? How long will it take?”

David Nica said the solution to the banking crisis cannot lie with Spain alone. Also, he felt that the “banking institution should be separated from the trading institution or capital markets. There are basic flaws in the entire EU banking system.”

Ben Muller referred to the October 2012 Liikanen Report as the guideline for reforms. Grace Maglieri supported the single banking supervisor to monitor all major banks within the euro zone because “anything else is less a solution than a symbolic gesture.”

Clare Skillman ended with the feeling that these reforms are needed now. She hoped “that Spain will lead the EU with the numerous reforms and displays the need for transparency and reliable banking.”

Finally, David Nica concluded the presentation with: “Only with a supranational banking supervisor can the EU sever the unhealthy link between banks and government, such as had developed in Spain.”

On their trip, the students visited the European Union headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the Spanish Embassy, where they presented their findings,; and also the International Monetary Fund, where there was a roundtable discussion about the need for banking reform in the European Union. They also had time to tour the Capitol with a guide from Rep. Jim Himes’ office.

In addition, a private tour of the Senate office buildings was provided by a member of Senator Murphy’s office. They had an opportunity to meet with former students of Ridgefield High School who are now working at the Capitol: Connor Shaw and Emily Smith.

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