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There he goes again…


sarkobamaHo hum! Another G20 summit, another Sarkozy walkout threat.

The French president’s menaces to throw his toys out of his pram have become a regular feature of the run-up to each meeting of the world’s leading economic powers, making them a much debased coinage.  Sarko’s strops are now as routine a precursor to G20 gatherings as the vacuuming of red carpet or the deployment of flower arrangements.

In April, he vowed to storm out of the London G20 summit and refuse to sign the final communique unless France and Germany got their way on binding regulation of all financial markets. He declared victory and dropped the threat before the meeting even began. This time, according to his chief-of-staff, the issue at stake is binding curbs on bankers’ bonuses. It is a strange cause for a conservative politician to be pushing, but with Sarkozy, the emphasis is on politics rather than ideology.

The ritual pre-summit drumroll is designed to demonstrate to gullible French voters that their leader is standing up to “les Anglo-Saxons” (the American hyperpower and the perfidious British) and will not hesitate to say “non” in the manner of General Charles de Gaulle. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was also fond of these theatrics. But they pall with overuse.

British officials scrambled to assuage the French in April because a beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown was anxious to make the London summit a showcase of his global economic leadership. It is hard to imagine U.S. President Barack Obama taking Gallic posturing so seriously.

Neelie Kroes lays down the law on bank rescues


Neelie Kroes is laying down the law. The European Union’s competition chief may be lenient on timing, but she is sticking rock-hard to the principle that institutions which get public money during the financial crisis must be shrunk, broken up, sold off or wound up to avoid distorting competition. That is the main message of guidelines for restructuring state-aided banks drafted by EU regulators and obtained by Reuters on Thursday.


Governments, such as Britain’s, that are hoping to avoid drastic bank restructuring which could complicate efforts to return billions of pounds of public money poured into state rescues are likely to be disappointed.