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Europe Comes Together in Desperation
Even though I myself insisted that former Greek Prime Minister Papandreou should query the Greek people before moving forward with the EU’s grand barter, I never in my wildest dreams expected that within hours of publishing, he would actually call for a referendum. After all, such a referendum would effectively decide whether Greece would remain in the eurozone, which was something the Greek government was for months fighting tooth and nail for. Despite the protests and fires that continued on the streets of Greece, it made little sense for the government to give up on a deal that effectively forgave half its debt. We posited that it must thus be a genius political move by George Papandreou, which would effectively give new life to the dead government walking and the PASOK party. After all, the Greek people, if properly educated on the vote, would surely not choose a route that would take them into default and out of the bubble of the civilized European society they have mostly treasured since Greece’s initiation.
I suppose one might say this change in Greece made possible what was previously less likely in Italy, the disposal of the embattled and embarrassing billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi had been shy about implementing the austerity measures his European brethren viewed necessary to prevent crisis contagion. The support of his people was worn thin, as his scandalous session as the Italian Prime Minister dragged on. So by putting off financial reinforcement, Berlusconi sought to keep Italians in cafes rather than on the streets of Rome burning his effigy.
Former European Commissioner for Italy, Mario Monti, the technocrat of choice for the job accepted the role over the weekend. Economic expert, Mario Draghi might have better matched with Greece’s turnover to Papademos, but he’s busy in his new post at the European Central Bank. The ouster of Berlusconi came at once and as a condition for the united passage of austerity. Berlusconi’s opponents in the senate determined to not vote, allowing the measures to pass; it then moved forward to the lower house for passage, and so austerity and Monti have been received in Italy.
The latest European tone has me anticipating Christine Lagarde or Jean-Claude Trichet could shortly move into the captain’s chair in France. Perhaps the final maneuver would be the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s supplanting Angela Merkel in Germany. Could you ever imagine Ben Bernanke as your president without an election to support the choice? It’s all quite baffling, though the intensifying desperation of Europe is adding impetus if not frenzy to these decisions. These latest government changes are explained as necessary to quell political posturing and to allow for unified effort. These implanted leaders are only seen as temporary fixes. Opposing parties view the next election as their opportunity to restore control. However, in the end, the people will decide who will lead them, and they would seem unlikely to punish these new technocrats, who are economic experts seemingly best qualified for the times. Who knows, this may even be a step toward a truly unified Europe.
FYI: In 2009, Wall Street Greek presciently wrote of the coming turnover of European and global governments.
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