Trichet and the oth­ers

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

The deficit in po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship that we wit­ness on a daily ba­sis is truly fright­en­ing and, un­for­tu­nately, not lim­ited to Greece. We see it all over the world, and es­pe­cially in Europe. For ex­am­ple, the ca­coph­ony over the past few weeks in re­gard to the very sen­si­tive ques­tion of Greece re­struc­tur­ing its debt il­lus­trates that some­thing is awry. Prime min­is­ters, min­is­ters and cen­tral bankers are ex­press­ing con­flict­ing opin­ions with­out once in­spir­ing the be­lief that some­where, in some dark room, a real plan, a sys­tem­atic and long-term plan, is be­ing drawn up. This lead­er­ship vac­uum in the Euro­pean Union height­ens un­cer­tainty over where the EU, the eu­ro­zone, the Schen­gen Agree­ment, this en­tire Euro­pean con­struct, built with so much ef­fort, is head­ing. The only cer­tainty is that Ger­many will push de­vel­op­ments in the direc­tion it wants. Re­cent events in his­tory, such as the man­ner in which the states that once com­prised Yu­goslavia were rec­og­nized or not, has taught us that de­ci­sions are of­ten ar­rived at in a very coarse way. The present lead­er­ship of Ger­many, how­ever, seems to place the EU’s fate be­low its do­mes­tic con­cerns. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s vi­sion for a more com­pet­i­tive EU is with­out doubt the right one, but it re­quires po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment and pa­tience. In this cli­mate of un­cer­tainty, the only fig­ure that ap- pears to know ex­actly what he wants is Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Trichet. First of all he only speaks pub­licly when he has to. He han­dled the in­ter­na­tional bank­ing cri­sis per­fectly and with a steady hand on the helm. He was the one who played a cat­alytic role in sav­ing Greece by bail­ing out the coun­try’s banks and buy­ing bonds on the sec­ondary mar­ket. Nei­ther of these was the ob­vi­ous thing to do, nor were they in ab­so­lute line with the ECB’s area of ju­ris­dic­tion. When, how­ever, the rest of Europe’s lead­er­ship main­tained a stance of hes­i­ta­tion and was un­able to reach a com­mon de­ci­sion, Trichet did the dirty work by ac­quaint­ing him­self with the ECB deal­ing room and fol­low­ing the progress of the bond mar­kets. Maybe he is helped by the fact that he has years of ex­pe­ri­ence in this dog-eat-dog world and that he’s not pre­oc­cu­pied with the chances of los­ing an elec­tion. What is cer­tain is that in such an en­vi­ron­ment of in­se­cu­rity and un­cer­tainty, it’s good to know that there is one true in­sti­tu­tional player who is us­ing his head, acting be­hind the scenes and work­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally, there­fore mak­ing the mar­kets un­der­stand that the EU is not en­tirely with­out lead­er­ship in these crit­i­cal times.

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