Monday, December 19, 2011

Running it to the wire

Brussels, this time of year, is normally empty of eurocrats. Everyone has gone back to their homes, the Berlaymont has virtually shut down, and the few remaining are on survival rations. Then to have AFP report that eurozone finance ministers are to have a teleconference this afternoon, with Christmas so close, is almost unprecedented.

On the agenda is squeezing more money out of the IMF, and event which is giving The Boy a hard time as people are waking up to the fact that these bailouts are costing us dear, via the IMF loan mechanism.

It is not just the fact that we are having to borrow about €30 billion (or thereabouts) to stuff in the fund, but the opaqueness of the details about interest rates. If the US Experience is any guide, not only are we risking our money, the interest we are paying on our loans is considerably more than we are getting via the IMF.

As we get closer to the holidays, though, the media will begin to shut down on the serious stuff, and it will be instructive to see what survives the Christmas firewall. What so very often seems absolutely vital pre-Christmas does not survive the long break.

With the "colleagues" running it to the wire, however, we can expect things very quickly to pick up where they left off. It is getting hard to remember a time without crisis, so it looks as if we are in for only a very short respite.

But what you will not see is the spectacle of which we were reminded last year by Der Spiegel. In the September it republished a photograph of a Paris street lit up with Christmas decorations celebrating the then imminent introduction of the euro on 1 January 2002.

The prevailing mood, it wrote, in the months leading up to the date when euro bills and coins went into circulation was of optimism for a better future with Europe's new common currency. Last year, it was asking, "where has all the euro-phoria gone?". This year, it isn't even bothering to ask.

And coming up is the New Year and the tenth anniversary of the launch of the euro. That would be a good day for it to die.