The motto, “towards a better Europe” – as simple as it is dramatic – is the one the Cypriots have chosen to launch their presidential term. They have declared four priorities : a more stable and efficient Union, an economy based on growth and sustainability, a Europe that uses solidarity and social cohesion to come closer to its citizens, and a Europe with more global influence. Community jargon that says everything and yet nothing : nothing new, nothing striking, no remedy to make the Euro recover from its illness. What’s more, it is not them who have the power to make this change.
It is the lady in yellow, Frau Merkel, who has always held the key to a better Europe. However, even the unbending Chancellor has been stretched by this last European summit, leaving her tired and defeated. Some maintain that, after this disappointment, Germany will no longer call the shots on the European stage. Even the patriotic German magazine Der Spiegel agrees with this belief : « Super » Mario Monti has knocked Merkel from her perch. It was he who dropped the media bomb on the European Council that there would be no agreement on the pact for growth if Europe did nothing to help Italy. And Rajoy was by Italy’s side, hoping Spain too could get in on a piece of the action. The Danish Premier, angered, questioned : “Are you trying to take us hostage ?”  But Monti’s strategy was successful, also thanks to the support of François Hollande, who always maintained throughout his election campaign that Merkel’s rigorist attitude was wrong. Even the new French President, in fact, believes politics of infinite austerity will do nothing but exacerbate the recession.
A strong signal of growth must be given and this, it seems, could be found in the ESM agreement. The European Stability Mechanism will directly save the banks without meaning that States, such as Italy and Spain, must endlessly increase their public debt. The only condition imposed by the Germans was that the Mechanism will not begin to function until a single authority for supervising the European banking system is in place. As there is a risk of this dragging on for some time, a decision was made in the meantime to give Spain a rescue package of 100 billion euros, to be given directly to a private institution and guaranteed by the Spanish government.
Yet if Merkel seems to have lowered her guard she has not yet unleashed the Dutch and Finnish dogs. Not even twenty-four hours passed before Germany’s trusty allies declared they wished to break down the anti-spread shield brandished by Monti. The ESM, after the veto that prevents unanimity, will not be able operate in the secondary market, that is to say, the fund will not be able to acquire bonds to stabilise spread between states. Both light and shadow are cast on these intense relationships. If the recent summit and the start of the Cypriot presidency were a symbol of greater integration and responsibility, the UK is instead in the process of detaching itself from the EU, perhaps pushing PM David Cameron to call a referendum in 2015 on British involvement in Europe. He may not be personally convinced, but the Prime Minister does allow that the status quo within Europe is unacceptable and, if a political union were to be formed, British citizens would certainly have the right to decide whether or not they wished to form a part of it. But whether we are talking about the union of banks or of political or fiscal union, the great leaders cannot beat about the bush. Time is money. In Europe, then, time is also stretched.