Euro crisis: “it is time to send for the Borg…”

You can follow the latest developments in the eurozone crisis at the Guardian’s live-Business blog as pressure mounts on Italian Prime Minister designate, Mario Monti – who was nominated to replace Silvio Berlusconi three days after the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, appointed Monti a Lifetime Senator.  From his Wikipedia entry

In 2007, Monti was one of the first supporters of the first European civic forum, Etats Généraux de l’Europe, initiated by European think tank EuropaNova and European Movement.

In December 2009, he became a member of the reflection group for the future of Europe, chaired by former Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez. In this forum, he advocated an economic government for Europe and a European Monetary fund. He also supported a New European Deal with a better coordination between social and economic issues in Europe.

In 2010, Monti was asked by Commission President Manuel Barroso to produce a Report on the Future of the Single Market proposing further measures towards the completion of the EU Single Market.[11]

Monti is a founding member of the Spinelli Group,[12] an organization launched in September 2010 to facilitate integration within the European Union (other members of the steering group include Jacques Delors, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Guy Verhofstadt, Andrew Duff and Elmar Brok).

And it’s worth noting Frau Bundeskanzlerin nailing her colours firmly to the mast

Addressing the annual conference of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Leipzig yesterday, the German leader described the challenge facing the Continent as “the task for our generation”.

Standing before a backdrop with the slogan “For Europe. For Germany” – a reversal of the normal order of things in Germany politics – Dr Merkel reminded delegates that these are far but normal times in Europe.

The task of our generation now is to complete the economic and currency union in Europe and, step by step, create a political union,” she said. “It’s time for a breakthrough to a new Europe and it’s time to think beyond day to day, towards a permanent solution.”  [added emphasis]

The new Greek Prime Minister technocrat-in-chief, Lucas Papademos, has made his position clear

“The new coalition government, and myself personally, have assumed our responsibilities at this critical moment because Greece’s participation within the euro zone is at risk,” said Lucas Papademos, presenting his interim government’s programme to parliament.

In reiterating the positions that he has expressed since his appointment on Friday, the technocrat revealed nothing new in the slow-paced speech that was largely devoid of complex terminology. He said the main task of his government was to carry out the decisions of the October 27th summit “and to apply economic policies linked to these decisions”.

“I cannot complete this mission on my own,” the former Greek and European central banker added, in an appeal for unity. “The country can be saved; it depends on us.”

You don’t need to share the political views of Daniel Hannan, MEP, to recognise the fundamental truth of his opening statement here

What we have witnessed is a coup d’état: bloodless and genteel, but a coup d’état none the less. In Athens and in Rome, elected prime ministers have been toppled in favour of Eurocrats – respectively a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank and a former European Commissioner. Both countries now have what are called ‘national governments’, though they have been put together for the sole purpose of implementing policies that would be rejected in a general election.

Even if you believe, as the BBC’s Chris Morris appears to suggest, the intervention of “a kind of politburo” could be justified by the “extraordinary times”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy have been joined by one other democratically elected leader – Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who also happens to chair meetings of eurozone finance ministers.

Also at the table are five others chosen by their peers: Jose Manuel Barroso and Ollie Rehn from the European Commission; Herman Van Rompuy from the European Council; Mario Draghi, the new president of the European Central Bank; and all the way from Washington (but really from France) Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.

It has been christened the Frankfurt Group, after the venue of their first meeting where Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel rather spoilt the moment by having a stand-up row.

But what is interesting about this inner core within the inner core is that it has begun to flex its muscles. Leadership – that is what we have all been crying out for, isn’t it?

It has been pressure from members of the Frankfurt Group which has helped unseat recalcitrant prime ministers in Italy and Greece. That may raise questions about democratic legitimacy, but these are extraordinary times.

Questions, indeed.  In the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole plays down the dangers of “two completely unrealistic “futures” for the euro and the EU”, but he doesn’t address the questions posed by “the coup that has already happened in Europe, with an unelected directory in Frankfurt assuming control of national budgets. The Frankfurt Group (Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mario Draghi, José Manuel Barroso, Jean-Claude Juncker, Herman van Rompuy, Christine Lagarde and Olli Rehn) which has assumed command with no democratic or legal mandate”.

He argues that “retrospective legitimacy [to that “coup”] by changes to the EU treaties” “is not going to happen”.


Final word, for now, from Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber who quotes the FT leader on 9th November as “not very far from what [he] would be writing if [he] had the time

Apparently, the answer to the huge problems of the eurozone is the replacement of elected premiers with economic experts – approved officials dropped from European institutions. In Greece, Lucas Papademos, a former vice-president of the European Central Bank, has been pushed hard for the job; in Italy, Mario Monti, another economist and a former EU Commissioner, is much mentioned. They may lack a democratic mandate but they’re fantastically well regarded in Frankfurt. It remains to be seen if either will clinch the role. But what exactly is the great attraction of technocrats?

If ever modern Europe needed brave, charismatic leaders to carry their nation through turbulent times, it would seem to be now. Instead, it is as if the crew of the Starship Enterprise had concluded that Captain Jean-Luc Picard is no longer the man for the job and that it is time to send for the Borg. Efficient, calculating machines driving through unpopular measures across the eurozone with the battle cry “resistance is futile” are apparently the order of the day. Faced with a deep crisis, once-proud European nations are essentially preparing to hand over power to Ernst & Young.  [added emphasis]

Indeed.  In the meantime, as I may have mentioned

It’s still “the political trilemma.” 

[Europe is still sexy! – Ed]  Of course it is.

And, as I’ve been saying, for supporters of the “European Project”, the options are stark.

And when it’s that serious, you have to lie…

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