Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

If the EU wrote letters to Santa

Adelina Marini, December 20, 2010

The moods at the EU leaders meetings are becoming more and more tense, thus increasing the possibility some of them to lose it. This is happening against the backdrop of the receding light in the tunnel for the eurozone countries put under the pressure of financial markets. In such an environment it is unlikely the 27 leaders of the EU, especially the 16 from the euro are (who will be 17 when Estonia joins the euro in January) to feel festive but definitely some of them could think of writing to Santa a letter and wish something.

What would Germany wish?

If I were German chancellor Angela Merkel I would most certainly write to Santa Klaus to bring me more understanding on behalf of my EU partners that it is wrong Germany to save everyone who had spent freely, taken credits without thinking of tomorrow in a moment when the Germans had to live for 20 years with tightened belts in order to help their eastern half to catch up after the unification. The increase of wages was practically frozen and the taxes - high. Besides, Ms Merkel would probably ask Santa to bring her internal political support so that she could continue her tough stance towards her EU partners.

France's wish

Of course Nicolas Sarkozy would also wish his friendship with Merkel to continue and also his chairmanship of the G8 and the G20 to bring him the fame he so much longs for in terms of achieving a serious tightening of fiscal regulation. Sarkozy will also write the tensions in some parts of the world not to diminish, so that he could continue the successful arms deals like the latest he concluded during his visit in India. It is obvious that for now this sector supports at best French economy, shaken by internal social unrest. The French leader might also write in his letter a request French unions to be weakened in some way or another.

In Greece Christmas will be cold and noisy

A lot of compassion evoked in me Greek PM Georgios Papandreou on Thursday afternoon when he was entering the European Council building in Brussels for the summit of his 26 EU partners. Asked by journalists at the entrance what his expectations from the Council were, Mr Papandreou said that the time had come each leader to take his own responsibility. This statement impressed me really much because it was not that long ago when Greece attacked Germany severely (its main rescuer currently) for events dating back in World War II. In his desperation how to prevent a default of his country, Papandreou blamed Germany that it was stingy in the name of internal political goals thus putting the euro area at risk.

These statements were then too arrogant but obviously the path Greece has walked so far until receiving a life-saving injection from the eurozone and the IMF was painful enough to help the left Papandreou realise that left ideas might be gorgeous but they need funding. Financing has obviously nowhere else to come from except from the intense work of the otherwise quite party-minded Greeks. This is why, probably Georgios Papandreou would ask Santa to bring reason to his Greek voters so that they could finally realise that money comes with work. Papandreou might also ask the old man from Lapland to bring good health and internal political victories for Angela Merkel, as well as to German taxpayers so that Greece could be able to reduce its debt in the next four years and to avoid justification of the forecast for a default.

A dark beer, please

Irish premier Brian Cowen is unlikely to write to Santa because he is most certainly not going to remain on top of the government - in January there will be early elections in Ireland, caused by the collapse of the banking system in the country, because of which Dublin was forced to ask (without wanting to) for financial assistance from the EU and the IMF. But as Mr Cowen looks like a responsible man he might drop a few lines, asking Santa the Moody's rating agency to stop reducing his homeland's credit rating and also the record high levels of Irish exports to continue so as to drag Ireland out of the crisis. For the third quarter of the year the Irish economy grew by 0.5% which is mainly due to the big exports.

However, because of the growing levels of unemployment, the internal demand has marked a serious drop in spite of the upcoming Christmas festivities, so Mr Cowen might also ask the white-bearded old man to bring to the Irish more possibilities to buy a box of dark beer for Christmas. For the purpose, though, the Laplandian would have to take care of at least part of the jobless to find work.

Dear Santa (in Portuguese)

The Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates is also living in difficult times, although he does not seem to have lost his spirit. I am almost certain that he would write Santa to help Portugal avoid assistance from the euro area rescue mechanism because this would most certainly drag Spain down too, whose banks have serious expositions to their smaller neighbours. I even think that it is not impossible Jose Socrates and Jose Luis Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, to write a joint letter to Santa, in which Zapatero would ask the Spanish cajas (savings banks) to survive the pressure and not fail (at least not altogether). It is clear that if that would happen Spain would have to rely on the rescue fund but as it is a too big economy, this fund would not be able to help.

Berlusconi should be quiet

After he barely survived as a head of his government, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (if of course he has learned his lessons) should ask Santa to bring more health to his finance minister Giulio Tremonti, who (as the Financial Times wrote a month ago) is the main pillar of Italian economy. The respect Tremonti inspires in investors and politicians for now is enough to keep the situation on the Apennines peninsula under control. But the bloodthirsty eyes of the crisis are more frequently peeking at that direction, which forced the member of ECB's executive board Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to publish an article in the British financial daily.

It is hard for me to assess whether this article bears the spirit of reason or it is more desperately sounding but in general Mr Smaghi is trying to explain that the dominant calls for default of the over-indebted countries on behalf of economists, analysts and investors, is not the best solution, especially for the developed economies. He recalls that not a small part of the European countries have survived such situations during the First and the Second World wars and at this stage it is unthinkable in terms of social-economic repercussions.

So Berlusconi's letter could also include Lorenzo Bini Smaghi with a request foreign investors to receive a few sedative pills. In fact, Mr Smaghi might ask Santa to bring his boss Mario Draghi the post of a president of the European Central Bank that he so much wants (and not only he). Next year the term of the French hawk Jean-Claude Trichet will expire but there are two candidates for this place - the governor of the Italian central bank Mario Draghi and Bundesbank's chief Axel Weber.

May I have some euro bonds please?

This is what the prime minister of Luxembourg and president of the Eurogroup would probably write. This titan of European politics for the last 10 years lately looks exhausted, nervous and his usual refined sense of humour has moved to sarcasm. Mr Juncker united precisely with Italy's finance minister Giulio Tremonti in asking for the creation of common euro bonds because he thinks that this is the only way to reduce the pressure on the entire euro area, as well as to avoid a chain reaction in the monetary union. But Germany and France reacted sharply to the idea, wanting enhancement of the fiscal union, as well as of the political one - something which they are currently doing amongst themselves.

I guess that given his psychological condition Juncker is not unlikely to ask to find under the Christmas tree a new German chancellor because he already has an edge on the current - Angela Merkel. Yet in the wake of the crisis Germany forced the little dukedom to give up being a save haven, against which Juncker was firmly resisted because this is the main source of revenue for the richest EU country. Germany, however, managed to twist his wrists, thus gaining a serious adversary in the face of the long standing premier of Luxembourg, who is also a minister of finance.

The fiscal butcher

The record-holder of spending cuts - the new British prime minister, David Cameron - would most certainly mention in his letter to Santa that he wants EU's budget to remain unchanged. If Cameron's main mission at the October European Council was to win a minimalistic increase of the budget for 2011 which evoked a crisis and a danger the budget not to be approved on time, at the December council Cameron united forces with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy in his wish the European budget to remain frozen at its current levels by 2020. This would definitely be a major blow for the net beneficiaries of aid, among which Bulgaria.

Congratulation, ded Moroz (the Russian for Santa Klaus)

It is hard for me to be in prime minister Boyko Borissov's shoes but as he continues to demonstrate serious loopholes in his knowledge about the functioning of the European Union, and he is not much interested in European issues, I suppose that he would aim at more prosaic wishes. Maybe he would ask Santa to bring him more media love, wrapped up in good results during the local and presidential elections next year. I also suppose that Mr Borissov would enjoy several greetings cards from his EU partners, saying "Congratulation, mister Borissov"*, as well as several pats on his back.

The prime minister is a little inconsistent so it is not certain what exactly he would decide to write in his letter and whether this would indeed be what he wants, but if he really wants the above he would by all means have to mention that he was good in listening to everyone in 2010 - doctors, trade unions, scientists, dentists, minors, Russia, the US.

An amber membership

We cannot mention the wishes of all the 27 heads of state and government but it is necessary that we finish with Estonia's letter since the country invested huge efforts in fulfilling the Maastricht criteria and to be invited to join the euro area. Against the backdrop of the indeed draconian efforts of the small Baltic state, Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip would probably ask Santa to bring stability to the euro area so that the most advanced in the e-government country in the world is not forced to start rescuing the others instead of benefiting itself from this membership.

Of course euinside welcomes writing of letters to Santa and we really believe in the magic of Christ's birth. But, after all our basic convictions consist in less relying to gifts and magic and more on hard work and serious efforts. This both fills the spirit with purpose and brings real prosperity. We also have a more personal wish - more readers to be interested in European issues.

*Once Mr Borissov said in an interview when asked whether he knew any foreign languages, that he was studying in his car from little pieces of paper but that he knew pretty well when a partner of his in the EU hailed him for his successes by telling him "Congratulation mister Borissov".