Debt Crisis Lost in Translation. Until Now
After yet another midnight wait for a more or less cryptic "policy" statement by EU officials, I thought the discerning reader/viewer and overall interested follower of the ongoing euro zone debt debacle might appreciate a translation of the hermetic euro policy language into plain English.
Here it is:
"Statement by the Eurogroup"
Should read: One page of unanswered questions
"Ministers reaffirmed their absolute commitment to safeguard financial stability in the euro area."
Means: Thanks for hanging around until midnight, but we really haven't got anything to tell you.
"Ministers stand ready to adopt further measures that will improve the euro area's systemic capacity to resist contagion risk, including enhancing the flexibility and the scope of the EFSF, lengthening the maturities of the loans and lowering the interest rates, including through collateral arrangement where appropriate."
Means: We know full well what needs to be done, but we jolly well can't agree on anything.
"Ministers discussed the main parameters of a new multi-annual adjustment program for Greece, which will build on strong commitments to fiscal consolidation, ambitious growth-enhancing structural reforms and a substantial privatization of state assets."
Means: Don't bother asking questions about details; we haven't agreed on any. And take your cue from ambitions, which usually means unrealistic.
"Ministers welcomed the reinforcement of monitoring mechanism of the program of Greece, the nomination of the board of the privatization agency, which comprises two observers representing euro area member states and the European Commission, and agreed to provide extended technical assistance to Greece. They called upon the Greek government to sustain its on-going efforts to meet these commitments."
Means: We've had quite enough of fancy Greek statistics and massaged numbers and are now putting our own guards in place to make sure you can no longer bamboozle us.
"Ministers welcomed the decision by the IMF to disburse the latest tranche of financial assistance to Greece ...."
"...as well as the proposals from the private sector to voluntarily contribute to the financing of the second program, building on the work already underway."
Means: We failed to convince anybody the first time around, but we haven't got any better ideas, so we'll try again.
"The ECB confirmed its position, reaffirmed by its Governing Council last Thursday, that a credit event or a selective default should be avoided."
Means: You believe what you like there in Frankfurt!
"While the responsibility for resolving the crisis in Greece lies primarily with Greece, ministers recognized the need for a broader and more forward-looking policy response to assist the government in its efforts to bolster debt sustainability and thereby safeguard financial stability in the euro area."
Means: We needed four more lines of script to fill one page.
"In this context, ministers have tasked the Eurogroup Working Group to propose measures to reinforce the current policy response to the crisis in Greece. The Eurogroup Working Group will notably explore the modalities for financing new multi-annual adjustment Program steps to reduce the cost of debt-servicing and means to improve the sustainability of Greek public debt. This reinforced strategy should provide the basis for an agreement in the Eurogroup on the main elements and financing of a second adjustment Program for Greece shortly."
Means: We ministers are quite fed up with emergency meetings and as we thoroughly botched the first rescue package, we delegated it to our Sherpas to pick up the pieces and pull a second bailout of the hat. Good luck!
"Ministers commit to continue negotiating with the European Parliament the legislative proposals to reinforce economic governance in the European Union in order to agree on an ambitious reform as soon as possible."
Means: We know the only way out of this mess is agreeing to fiscal union, transfer of sovereignties from national parliaments to Brussels, but do you really think we "summit away" our own powers and risk our political careers for the sake of a European vision?
"The reinforced governance should be fully operational without delay."
Means: ... not until hell freezes over!
Of course, there would have been one very clear and simple way to express afore-mentioned statement issued to the fatigued Brussels press corps in the non-bewitching witching hour: "We still haven't come up with a plan. Come back next month."
Which the suffering euro debt crisis press circus, yours truly included, shall have to do anyhow.