Submitted by Mark Grant, author of Out of the Box,
Every time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I got is a photograph
And I realize you're not coming back anymore.
-Photograph, Ringo Starr
I suspect when the European Summit is over new conclusions will have been reached. I actually think that this Summit will be different; just not in the manner expected by many. As a matter of fact, for even those thinking it will be just one more go at it all with nothing done; I think even they will be surprised. This is likely to be the Summit marking the “Summer of Their Discontent.”
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
-The Bard’s, Richard III
While the European economies improved and while the people of Europe thought that some kind of Continental harmonization was in everybody’s best interest the great experiment proceeded and flourished but when virtually each nation on the Continent overspent and borrowed more and more money not only for new projects but to pay off old debt the reality of their engorging lifestyle eventually caught up with everyone and now they are faced with the rather harsh reality that the Continent is in recession and that the wealthier nations do not wish to and will no longer bailout everyone else as their economies also decline. To a great extent the politicians, the elite in Europe, came to believe their own nonsense and now they are finding out that the lyrics of the Three Musketeers, “One for All and All for One” is now the swansong for a Europe that is pulling apart both politically and economically.
The people living in Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki and Amsterdam et al are not going to watch their standard of living decline and be equated to those living in Athens, Lisbon and Madrid. The donations of Germany and the rest are about to stop as their economy flirts with recession while the other countries in Europe already find themselves mired in one and one that is worsening as the consequences of playing funny numbers with their books come around and take a bite from their rear ends as the penalty for such behavior. You may call things what you like and you may claim that there is plenty of money still left in the countinghouse but when your purse empties and you return to the vault to refill it only to find that the cupboard is bare then a reality of a different sort sets in.
The thirteen years that the European Union has been in place is but a mote in God’s eye. It is a trivial amount of time that is overshadowed by centuries of tradition and history of the tribes that inhabit Europe. The Greeks don’t want to be Germans and the French don’t wish to be Spaniards and certainly the Austrians don’t want to be Portuguese. It is neither wrong or right, better or worse; it is just different people with different mentalities that tried to forge a bond that is unworkable especially as all politics is local and Brussels, the creation of Germany to cover their dominant position, is elected by no one and accountable only to their own desires to rule by fiat which is close to dissolution as each tribe on the Continent rallies to protect themselves. It is self-preservation that always wins in the end and the platitudes of a harmonious existence have rusted and are collapsing as the desires of each nation conflict with the desires of their neighbors. Promises made can no longer be promises kept as the local consequences can no longer be borne.
This Summit is likely to be the one where the masks come off the revelers at the Ball and where the faces behind the masks are unveiled for all to see. I predict this weekend will be full of many “Oh My God” moments which will go unreported in the Press but where it dawns, with a wicked thump, that the wealthy nations of Europe are unwilling to pay for the poorer ones and that all of the make nice comments of the last thirteen years were no more than polite conversation in the European parlors. The ball of yarn is about to be unraveled and the quality of the cloth will be examined and found wanting.
Germany is running out of both patience and money and the people in Germany are beginning to become aggravated. The gloves have come off and Germany is staring down Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy and flatly saying, “No” and they mean it. Many, many people think that Germany will back down but the politics in Germany will not allow it and so they won’t as Ms. Merkel votes with her own people in the end and we have just about reached the end. I think this Summit will be an important one and will find a significant place in history just not in the manner that most people suspect. The rose will be off the bloom and the heat of the summer will cause more wilting than just the vegetation in the pastures.
“It was as if, at moments, we were perpetually coming into sight of subjects before which we must stop short, turning suddenly out of alleys that we perceived to be blind, closing with a little bang that made us look at each other--for, like all bangs, it was something louder than we had intended…”
-Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
All of this may seem rather complicated but it is not. This is a cut to the chase of those without adequate capital asking everyone else, anyone else with money to pay their bills. Think of a country club where different members have different incomes and where capital improvements were made with borrowed money and now the interest must be serviced and the loans repaid and the many members can’t afford it and are requesting the members with money to pick up their share of the costs. Ireland now wants the European Union to pay for the Irish banks and not just Ireland. Spain is screaming for the EU to lower their borrowing costs as well as Italy. France has joined the poorer nations as their economy declines and as Mr. Hollande wants to spend even more money as he pledged that in his election campaign and this Summit, I predict, will be noted as the gathering where Germany and the rest finally said, “No.”
This Summit will not be the end but it may well mark Churchill’s famous postulation that it is the beginning of the end. The cries of anguish are about to be met with refusal and the realization that “No” is actually “No” will produce, I fear, the exact same reaction of a six year old unruly child who throws himself on the floor in utter frustration when he does not get what he wants. It is still now, it is quiet; but it will not be soon!
“Three quiet days. This hell fiend is like a cat with a mouse. She lets me loose only to pounce upon me again. I am never so frightened as when everything is still.”