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Posted by Richard Thursday, December 08, 2011


The Financial Times is one of those very rare newspapers which is actually increasing its circulation. There may be many reasons for this, and it may be a complete coincidence that it offers a more dispassionate and comprehensive coverage of European affairs.

It has a Europhile reputation and its style is not to my liking, but more often than not, it is to the FT that one gravitates as part of the package of sources needed to keep one informed.

There has to be a lesson in there somewhere, not least that the information tends to be reliable (insofar as it is possible to be – we all get caught out). To illustrate the point, by contrast we see the International Herald Tribune (the global edition of the New York Times tells us that the Merkozy want the "deal" – i.e., their treaty proposal - "approved this week".

This is such an amazing distortion that you could hardly believe that anyone could write it. The best the Franco-German pair can hope for is an agreement to convene an IGC. Then nature must take its course. There is no question of a "deal" and to suggest so is completely to misrepresent the situation.

The paper then goes on to say that this "deal" could "buy temporary stability for the euro zone if Germany finally drops its objections and the European Central Bank quickly buys enough Italian and Spanish bonds to force their yields down to sustainable levels".

Here again we have problems. As far as I understand it, the ECB does not have the cash to buy up Italian and Spanish bonds – it has to get the money from its members, with Germany a major contributor. And, courtesy of AEP and others, we know that Germany is bumping up against constitutional restraints.

Thus, we are not talking about German "objections", as such, but of what Germany is able to do within its constitutional limits. This puts the political dynamics in a wholly different context.

Keeping informed is difficult enough, and the sheer volume of sources, the speed of developments and the complexity of the issues makes it vital that we have a well-informed and reliable media. That is where we are being let down. One almost has to know more than the sum total of the information conveyed media, in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Fortunately, in addition to a few quasi reliable sources, some blogs (including this one) are beginning to network informally, sharing information and thinking, so we can keep you up to date.

Be under no illusions though. This is difficult stuff, stretching us to the limits, intellectually and (for me) physically. We'll do our best, and get it wrong occasionally - relying on the very welcome corrective of the forum to keep us on the straight and narrow - but we will be there, trying to understand what is going on.

COMMENT: "PLANTING THE FLAG" THREAD