Monday 26 September 2016

Rudderless EU risks foundering over Greece

Published 23/06/2015 | 02:30

There is an existential crisis at the heart of Europe – flannelling about is not the response expected by the nigh on 500 million who live within its borders
There is an existential crisis at the heart of Europe – flannelling about is not the response expected by the nigh on 500 million who live within its borders

Whatever you do, do nothing, seems to have become the battle cry of Brussels. We have bursts of frenetic activity, portentous deadlines are set, preceded by protracted talks, and then the whole thing grinds to a halt in all-too-predictable deadlock.

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Whether it is passing the euro or the drachma, the buck has to stop somewhere if the EU is not to become the focus of international ridicule. Yesterday's latest "emergency summit" on the crisis that has gripped Greece for the past five years ended in less than an hour. "Progress" dissolved into the now expected confusion when it emerged that a document circulated by the Syriza-led government did not have the authority attributed to it, as a number of similar documents were also in circulation. Even Sisyphus was only required to push one boulder up the hill.

As billions fly from the banks, and as bureaucrats, ministers and mandarins fly back and forth from Brussels in pursuit of a denouement, all we are left with is a growing sense of frustration.

There is an existential crisis at the heart of Europe - flannelling about is not the response expected by the nigh on 500 million who live within its borders.

There is no question that the Greeks shoulder a considerable portion of blame for the impasse. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made most of the running on this crisis, must also step forward and meet her responsibility. At the heart of the stalemate lies an unwillingness to show leadership. Ms Merkel has signalled that she believes that there is still hope, and her voice has been the most dominant since the stand-off began.

At some point she will have to demonstrate decisiveness. She must show that she has a vision for Europe as a whole, even if that means embracing decisions that would not prove popular in Berlin.

A rudderless EU is in danger of foundering. The premise on which the whole construct depends is that if everyone surrenders something, everyone will ultimately get back something better. It should be remembered that positions can harden irrevocably in the moment of indecision and there may be no time for turning back.

A welcome alternative to the moneylenders

They say that there is only one golden rule in business, and that is that those who own the gold make the rules. As we know to our cost recently, these rules can act like a vice squeezing the poor, especially those unfortunate enough to be paying the exorbitant interest rates being charged by some moneylenders.

So the news yesterday that tens of thousands of families may soon be able to obtain loans of up to €1,000 in a new Government move to loosen the hold moneylenders have on those who have nowhere else to turn, is welcome indeed.

The Department of Social Protection will be in a position to see loans approved within an hour.

In all, 40,000 loans a year could be cleared through post offices and credit unions.

The rates charged will be up to 12pc, which, when you consider that 188pc is charged by some private moneylending firms, makes this a significant initiative.

It may not be the final answer to pulling the 160,000 people on this island who use moneylenders out of their hands, but it is a valuable step towards loosening their grip.

Irish Independent

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