Euro crisis: “Welcome to Europe’s endless debt saga.”

I haven’t posted an update on the euro crisis for a while, and this European Diary piece by Arthur Beesley in the Irish Times might help explain why.

Welcome to Europe’s endless debt saga. Sunshine is a rare enough commodity in cloudy Brussels – and a downpour follows any glorious spell. The hunch must be, however, that Vitamin D levels are at an all-time low in the euro trouble crowd.

After all, the general routine these days involves hundreds if not thousands of politicians, advisers, officials, diplomats, translators, clerks, security dudes, drivers, journalists and assorted hangers-on spending endless hours cooped up in arid buildings as people in a stuffy room try to sort out the latest incremental move. Sunshine is the luxury of wimps, clearly.

The meeting here of euro zone finance ministers on Monday night was a case in point. Nine languid hours they spent talking, before emerging bag-eyed into the dark after 2am with a 522-word statement in which they mainly reiterated the conclusions of a 14-hour dead-of-night summit meeting a fortnight ago.

These communiques increasingly resemble the notes of a bewildered doctor on an ailing patient he still hopes to save but whose illness he does not fully understand.

The latest message from the ministers was dated July 9th but it was already July 10th by the time the thing was actually released. By then, plans were already in train for another bickering session 10 days hence – and yet more unscheduled talks in early September.

When is an emergency meeting not an emergency meeting? When it’s planned eight or nine weeks in advance.

Never mind the lack of sunlight. Sleep deprivation is at work too. Exhaustion is general. A fellow reporter recounts waking up with a shudder the other night in the middle of an anarchic dream about Mario Monti, Angela Merkel and other luminaries! Say no more.

Really, it all seems faintly ridiculous.

Do read the whole thing.  And on his point that “there are no guarantees in this game”, take a look at the “polite riposte” Ambrose Evans-Pritchard received from the German finance ministry to his “irreverent suggestions in yesterday’s blog“.  As he says

Interpret this as you will.

It strikes me that the European Commission and others have gone much too far in claiming that the ESM will indeed recapitalise banks.

The German Bundestag has not given any such authorisation. It may do so at some point in 2013, or it may not. The current finance legislation specifically prohibits it.

As for breaking the law, the question is what Chancellor Merkel agreed to verbally behind closed doors. The comments by the Spanish and others suggests that she may have promised much more than appeared in the formal conclusions – arguably in breach of her Bundestag mandate.

Since German president Joachim Gauck has told her to come clean on exactly what she agreed in Brussels, we may soon find out.


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