Belfast Telegraph

The moral is ... be careful what you wish for

By Brendan Keenan

Epluribus Unum' it said on the presidential seal as Barack Obama spoke at College Green - 'From Many, One.'

Whatever your views on the US, there is no denying it has the best constitutional language.

Europe has the endless, unreadable treaties, as amended by Lisbon, and not much else. Hardly anyone knows what the stars mean, something to do with Charlemagne and the once- popular Miraculous Medal. There is a decent anthem from Beethoven but if there is a motto, I am not aware of it.

Perhaps 'Be Careful What You Wish For,' might be apt, given the story so far. I leave it to the classical scholars among you to render it into appealing Latin.

As for wishes, as I recall events, it was the Germans who were held to be most keen on political union in Europe. It was even said that those who desired political union saw the creation of the euro as an ingenious way of realising their goal.

Monetary union would prove impossible without more political union, which would then be implemented to make the euro work. It looks like they were right about the first point, but disastrously wrong about the second.

German antipathy to any kind of fiscal union, which would entail new political structures, is among the strongest in the EU.

As we in Ireland stare mesmerised at the intractable problems posed by a half-finished monetary union, we, too, should be careful what we wish for.

From what one can gather, there is a widespread desire for some kind of debt default as an answer to these intractable problems. Those who stand in the way of such actions, be it the European Central Bank or the US Treasury, are held to be at best misguided and at worst malevolent. One suspects that the puzzled look on Mr Obama's face as he heard Mr Kenny repeat his speeches would have been as nothing to the look that such a complaint would have induced.

There is no European version of 'Brady bonds' (named after a US Treasury Secretary) which are credited with allowing orderly restructuring in Latin America, or any prospect of anything similar.

But is there a better way, even for Europe in general, other than the commitment of large sums of public money to its banking system and the acceptance of tighter, more expensive credit, Irish-style?

If there is, they have not found it yet and the delay could prove fatal.

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