September’s prize for Headline of the Month goes to the sub-editor with the dry sense of humour who put these words at the top of a story about Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister: “Berlusconi is Best Leader in Italy’s History, says Berlusconi.”
The story itself quotes Berlusconi as telling a news conference in Sardinia, where he was hosting talks with Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero: “I sincerely believe I am by far the best prime minister Italy has had in its 150-year history.” So the headline, if not the sentiment behind it, cannot be faulted for lack of accuracy.
From a European Union perspective, it’s somewhat surprising that the extraordinary financial crisis we’ve been living through has not generated more pressure for another big push at EU integration – if not in the political sphere, then at least in the economic one. According to conventional EU wisdom, it usually takes a crisis to make Europeans understand why closer integration is a good thing. But on this occasion, it’s not happening – or at least, not yet.
For the perfect explanation as to why this should be so, I recommend an article by Otmar Issing, the European Central Bank’s former chief economist, in the latest issue of the journal Europe’s World. Issing’s article discusses the merits of issuing common bonds for the 16-nation eurozone – an initiative that would, in theory, mark a major step forward in European integration – and comes down firmly against the proposal.