Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, at last week's G20 summit in Cannes
At the European Commission’s regular mid-day press briefing today, Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, the spokesman for economic issues, said the Commission’s Italian monitoring team is expected to arrive this week. After agreement Friday in Cannes, the International Monetary Fund will be sending its own team at the end of the month. Read more
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini
The euro and European stock markets rallied today after Herman Van Rompuy delayed Monday’s EU summit by a week, a rally pegged to market hopes the new date was a sign European leaders were finally preparing a comprehensive agreement to deal with the worsening debt crisis. Read more
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I heard the news on Tuesday that the German authorities were to impose a temporary ban on certain types of transactions – known as “naked short-selling” – in eurozone government securities. Laugh, because it seems more than a coincidence that the announcement was made just before parliament in Berlin was due to open a debate on authorising Germany’s contribution to the €750bn international rescue plan for the eurozone. The ban looks like a piece of raw meat thrown to legislators who labour under the delusion that the eurozone’s debt crisis is all the fault of “speculators” and are eager for revenge.
Cry, because the German announcement underlines how the eurozone’s leaders, after finally appearing to get on top of events with the financial stabilisation plan unveiled on May 10, are once again misjudging the dynamics of the crisis. To cite another example, Italy’s central bank has just decreed that Italian banks will not be required to adjust their capital ratios if eurozone government bonds in their portfolios fall in value. What this will mean in terms of the credibility of financial data published by the banks, I hate to think. Read more
I take it that everyone has seen the insulting picture on the cover of the February 22 edition of Focus, a lightweight German news magazine? Under the headline ”Swindlers in the euro family”, it shows the Venus de Milo statue, a monument of ancient Greek civilisation, sticking up a middle finger at Germany. In this way the magazine’s editors convey, as offensively as possible, the idea that debt-ridden Greece is robbing Germany blind by forcing it to come to Greece’s financial rescue.
The Greek response has been predictably furious. The Greek consumers’ federation has called for a boycott of German goods, commenting that Greeks were creating timeless works of art like the Venus de Milo at a time when Germans were “eating bananas in the trees”. Read more
Nothing illustrates the sensitivity of the European Union’s relationship with Israel better than the statement which EU foreign ministers issued on Monday complaining about the use of forged European passports in last month’s killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas commander, in Dubai. The statement contained several sentences that were masterpieces of waffle, such as the following: “The EU … believes that its passports remain among the most secure in the world, fully meeting all international standards.”
The statement was, however, remarkable chiefly for its reluctance to spell out that the EU holds Israel responsible for the flagrant misuse of identity documents belonging to European citizens. It could hardly be otherwise, of course. There is insufficient evidence at this stage to state with certainty that Israel’s agents used the false passports and killed Mabhouh. Instead, it was left to a couple of EU foreign ministers to conduct some finger-wagging in one-on-one meetings with Avigdor Lieberman, their combative Israeli counterpart, who just happened to be in Brussels on Monday. Read more