After 51 matches and 108 goals, the European soccer championship was won by a principle that’s also crucial in business — efficiency. Portugal only won a single match during full-time, but eventually tired out their opponents during extra time. After the much-needed distraction of hosting the Euro 2016, defeated France now has to face the music and turn its attention back to a sluggish economy and disheveled president – in other words, to fighting a lack of efficiency.
What Europe really needs are credible Europeans cheering for the idea of integration. Even in Berlin, some politicians today speak of the European Union like an infectious disease you might catch accidentally when shaking someone’s hand. One of the last few European icons is Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the European Central Bank. In a Handelsblatt interview, he sharply criticized U.K. leadership for the Brexit referendum: “No one was forcing the British government to embark on that Russian roulette procedure.” And he shared his remedy for a better Europe: More democratic control in the euro zone and an E.U. finance minister. That prescription won’t go down well with everyone.
Less commendable is former E.U. Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s most recent endeavor. He will join U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs – the same bank that helped Greece trick its way into the euro zone and set the table for the currency bloc’s financial crisis. Now criticism is raining down. The left decry Barroso’s decision to help an elitist class that brought about the euro crisis, while he sees only a stimulating new task. Seems 10 years at the helm of the E.U.’s executive arm didn’t instill much European solidarity in Barroso.
First Greece, then Portugal, and now Italy – that’s the timeline of the euro crisis. Today, the euro-zone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels, while the IMF will simultaneously present its evaluation of Italy. One thing is clear: “Bella Italia” won’t cut a good figure in the report. The country’s growth is anemic, and Italian banks are saddled with €360 billion in bad loans. According to euro-zone rules, shareholders and bond creditors should bear the brunt of this problem in a bail-in. But Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi would prefer to rescue the ailing banks with taxpayer money. One way or the other, Italians better get ready to wave goodbye to “la dolce vita’’ for a while.
Germany may benefit from Brexit in unexpected ways. Deutsche Börse Chief Executive Carsten Kengeter wants to bring the lucrative euro transaction clearing market to Frankfurt should the merger between his bourse and the London Stock Exchange go through. Currently, most clearing transactions denominated in euro are processed in the United Kingdom, but after a Brexit, Britain will likely lose the right to process these deals. For now, it’s all up to Deutsche Börse shareholders. They have until tomorrow to accept or reject the merger offer. Bankers in Frankfurt are holding their breath.
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