Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Euro: dealing with teenagers

There are times when Europe offers the most wonderful political theatre, even against the background of the most solemn, painful difficulties. 

I’ve already talked about David Cameron being told to shut it by Sarkozy, providing a riveting display of the family-tension view of the political scene in Europe. Merkel and Sarkozy are the parents in this scenario, struggling to come to grips with most testing financial crisis the continent has seen for the best part of a century. Cameron’s in the role of the teenager with the baseball cap. 

‘Come on, Dad’, he’s saying, or perhaps ‘Daaaad’, ‘you’ve got to get this sorted, you’ve got to get the shed fixed up before the band comes to play in it at the weekend.’ You should never snap at a disturbed teenager, but surely we can sympathise when eventually harassed parents cracks and round on their whingeing offspring? 

‘Put a sock in it, son,’ Dad replies, ‘can’t you see we’ve got something slightly bigger to sort out here?’ 

But Merkel and Sarkozy have another troublesome boy. To their South, they have Berlusconi. He’s even worse than Dave because he thinks he’s funny. 

Isn’t it ghastly when a teenager starts trying to show off the wit he doesn’t have? You remember Silvio likening a German MEP to a concentration camp kapo? You only have to look at Silvio’s smile to know he thought he was being devastatingly hilarious. 

Then there was the time he kept Merkel waiting while he continued an apparently interminable mobile phone conversation. How stereotypical is that? 

Now the parents have actually put together a bit of a plan to get the family out of its hole. Will it work? It’s hard to say but it seems pretty clear that, without their latest measures, things would have been far worse, far sooner. 

Silvio’s comments? Yesterday he told us that the euro was a ‘strange’ currency because it can be ‘attacked on the markets.’ Does he mean unlike the lira, the pound or the franc? He’s the fourteen year-old who’s opted for the ‘Introduction to Economics’ course and hasn’t realised that reading the first half of chapter 1 doesn’t make him an expert. 

He also declared that the euro is a currency that ‘convinces no-one’. Now it must have been nice for all those people who laboured through all those hours of summit meetings to hear that from one of the major beneficiaries of their efforts. 

The parents have found a way that might help save the house. Dave is sulking in his room, playing his guitar with the amp turned up too high, refusing to contribute anything while still insisting on being fed. 

Silvio doesn’t think that saving the house makes much sense, because he doesn’t like the colour of the walls. Perhaps it’s no wonder that when Merkel and Sarkozy were asked at a press conference last week about the assurances Berlusconi had given them, they shared an ironic, and probably weary, smile before they tackled the effort of coming up with an answer. 

Merkel and Sarkozy struggling to stay serious-looking when
asked about the reliability of Berlusconi
That smile wasn’t well received in Italy. I can imagine that it caused even more pain than suffered by Cameron and his friends when he was told to shut up. 

But was it any the less deserved?

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