Europe can’t put out the blaze
If the world thought that Europe’s finance ministers were running in to put out the blaze spreading through Athens and Rome this week, it might come as a surprise to learn they still don’t agree on the size of the fire or how to deal with it.
Any training course will tell you that if a small fire isn’t tackled quickly, it could make things a lot worse. The Greek crisis is like a small electrical fire that has grown into a dangerous inferno now threatening to gut Italy.
But ministers meeting in Brussels have clearly not been on any fire extinguisher training courses lately — they don’t know their water from their foam and their dry powder. In fact, they appear to be pouring oil on the fire.
Belgium’s Finance Minister Didier Reynders says it is best to try to smother the blaze with a small cloth soaked in a chemical called a financial transaction tax, while Sweden’s Anders Borg and Austria’s Maria Fekter say they can’t spare any of their CO2 extinguishers.
“Italy can achieve a lot from its own doing,” Fekter told reporters who were watching the fire grow closer. Borg, Fekter and others are sure the Italians in the burning building down the street will be able to sort things out themselves.
Spain’s Elena Salgado is meanwhile clearly upset that the smoke from that fire is billowing into her garden, but France’s Francois Baroin says there was no need to reach for a fire hose: “Tout va bien” (Everything’s going well), he said, wiping his brow from the heat.
A combustible mix of hot air and faulty wiring seem to be one assessment of the causes of the euro zone flames, which no one is really willing to consider. But as the sound of emergency sirens grows louder, it may be time to remove the safety pin from the extinguisher marked “European Central Bank” — it may be the only way to remove all the oxygen feeding the fire.