Last week's highly anticipated two-day summit resulted in 26 of the 27 European Union (EU) nations - the United Kingdom objected - agreeing to create a new treaty that would require members to keep budget deficits to within 0.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in good economic times and within 3% of GDP in bad times.
EU governments would need to submit their budgets to a central fiscal authority, and violations would carry automatic penalties. The nations agreed to hammer out the details by March of next year.
World stock markets reacted positively, but many experts remain unconvinced that the EU has finally delivered the silver bullet needed to slay its monstrous debt crisis.
"They needed to create grand plan that's really workable and not another grand illusion," said Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald. "I'm afraid what we're getting is just another grand illusion."
In fact, last week's meeting was the fifth summit called to deal with the European debt crisis since 2009. Each has produced its share of optimistic rhetoric, but no concrete solutions.
European leaders from France, Germany, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund all hailed the summit agreement as a major step toward getting the debt crisis under control.
"This is the breakthrough to the stability union," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of the summit. "We are using the crisis as an opportunity for a renewal."
"It's a very good outcome for the euro area, very good," added ECB President Mario Draghi "It is going to be the basis for much more disciplined economic policy for euro-area members."
Fitz-Gerald said Europe's leaders mean what they say, but ultimately the latest summit will do little more than spark a brief rally in the markets.
"These government officials still don't get it," Fitz-Gerald said. "They're still not addressing the underlying problems. We'll be having this conversation again next year."
A Tough SellAlthough enforcing budgetary austerity would help prevent current debt problems from getting worse, it's unlikely the citizenry of most EU member nations will allow it to happen.
"Their proposal is preposterous," writes Brett Arends of MarketWatch, likening the EU plan to the United States allowing its largest creditors, Japan and China, control over the federal budget.
"How would you feel if you opened the paper to be told that the new Sino-Japanese "Fiscal Stability Commission' in Washington had just slashed your grandma's Social Security checks by one-third, scaled back federal highway repairs, and that it would impose a 10% national sales tax?," Arends said. "That is, after all, effectively what is being offered to the people of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland."