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Dan White: The Irish voter may have the last laugh after the latest two fingers from EU

WATCHING the much-hyped meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Just when we needed two giants like the great post-war French leader Charles de Gaulle and his equally illustrious West German counterpart Konrad Adenauer, we are forced to endure the "leadership" (if that's the correct word) of these two pygmies instead.

The Sarkozy-Merkel meeting was typical of the inadequate response of Europe's leaders ever since the eurozone crisis first erupted almost three years ago.

Instead of the bold, decisive measures that would convince the markets that they were serious about tackling the underlying problems, we are instead treated to a series of gimmicks which do no more than scratch the surface.



bull

What is needed to solve this crisis is an agreement between France and Germany to increase the €750m EU/IMF bailout fund to at least €2 trillion and the issue of eurobonds -- where the bonds of every eurozone country are guaranteed by every member country, especially Germany, rather than just the country which issues them.

The issue of eurobonds would reduce the borrowing costs of countries such as Italy, Spain and Ireland.

But no.

Increasing the bailout fund didn't even merit a mention, while Merkel specifically excluded eurobonds.

Instead we were treated to a load of guff about "European economic governance", which, in so far as it means anything at all, seems to involve a souped-up European Council of Ministers, harmonising company tax rates and an agreement on budget deficits.

This is, with all due respect to our more sensitive readers, the political and intellectual equivalent of the murky substance that emerges from a bull's rear end.

The notion that, after all that has happened, or rather not happened, over the past three years, a gaggle of European ministers can agree on anything strikes me as being utterly absurd.

Likewise the idea that European leaders, and not just our government, will give up the power to set their own tax rates is equally far-fetched. On the subject of budget deficits, we have had an agreement on budget deficits among euro member countries, the so-called Stability and Growth Pact, ever since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.

As Einstein once observed, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

At the same time as Europe's leaders are grimly sticking to their existing non-policies, the markets continue to bet against the survival of the eurozone in its current form.

This has in turn led to dark mutterings of "Anglo-Saxon conspiracies" from the EU and ECB, who point out that it now costs more to insure debt of France against the risk of default than the bonds of Panama or Kazakhstan.

Before we get too carried away with dark talk of plots it should be borne in mind that speculators are merely betting against what they, and a lot of other people, view as Europe's inability to solve its problems.

An agreement between Sarkozy and Merkel on an increased bailout fund and the issue of eurobonds would have stopped the speculators in their tracks.



payback

However, from an Irish point of view, the latest Sarkozy-Merkel agreement contains one delicious irony.

Any plans for greater integration of eurozone economic and taxation policies would have to be approved by Irish voters in a referendum.

After the manner in which our European "partners" have (mis)treated us over the past three years the chances of Irish voters passing such a referendum are remote.

Irish voters have been waiting in the long grass for Europe ever since last November's bailout. Now it's payback time.


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