The following conversation was overheard at the weekly emergency meeting of the European First Ministers prior to the G20 meeting in Cannes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were reviewing the final communiqué before meeting the press. Sarkozy (NS) and Merkel (AM) are grappling with the challenge of coming up with a solution to the Euro debt crisis once and for all, since previous proposals failed to calm international markets.
NS: I don’t think this is going to do it, Madame Chancellor; the bailout fund is too small. We will have to find more!
AM: But mein President, 440 billion Euros is more than enough to save the Greeks! My people will not stand for additional support; they already want Greece out of the Euro.
NS: Look, we would all like to go back in time and kick them out, but like you said, if Greece fails, then the Euro fails. Did you have to come up with that one? It really boxed us into a corner.
AM: It was written for me by Christine Lagarde, you know, your former finance minister? You wanted her as the IMF head, not me. I told you that it would have been easier to have a frumpy German man rather than an elegant French woman preach austerity. No one believes her when she walks around in shoes that cost more than a Frankfurt bricklayer’s monthly salary.
NS: Madame, please focus on the figures at hand. We need a number large enough to convince the international community that we are serious. Hmm, something big and round, with lots of zeros…would you consider a trillion Euros? Be bold, like the Americans!
AM: Ach, where are we going to get a trillion Euros? I hear noises that the G20 is going to refuse to contribute to our European Financial Stability Facility, and we have about half of the 780 billion Euros left to use. We can’t even save Italy with that kind of money, neither the Spanish after them. So, Nicolas, how do we get to your big, round, American-style bailout number?
NS: Well, you remember how Chinese Premier Wen visited us back in June and made all kinds of nice noises about supporting the Euro? I think that it is time for the Chinese to step up to the assiette, as they say. I can give them a call.
AM: We do not have the time to negotiate with the Chinese, it will take months. We need to take action now, mein herr.
NS: Madame Chancellor, please learn to live in shades of grey like we French politicians do. We will change the communiqué to say that we will leverage up the fund, seeking as much astwo trillion Euros, and the press will know that the only nation with that amount of Euro reserves around is China. The financial markets will pressure China to invest in the EFSF threatening to take a run on the Euro unless the Chinese pledge support. Faced with the prospect of losing on their Euro reserves or investing in our collective future, I believe they will invest in us. After all, we are their largest trading partner.
AM: So, you will get the media to do the dirty work for us, yes? Umglaublich! Unbelievable! Such crass manipulation, yet so pragmatic. No wonder we are such close partners, I provide the gravitas in this relationship and you manipulate behind the scenes. What do you expect the Chinese to ask for in return?
NS: I suspect that they will want to go on a buying spree of European assets, like the Arabs did in London in the 1970s when they were flush with cash. But this time, there will be a whole continent for the taking. They will ask us not to squirm and squeal when they want to buy into established European companies, even banks.
AM: I am not prepared to see BMW renamed the Lucky Shandong Auto Company. You are a big talker, Sarko, no one wants your French companies anyway, and we know that Germany will be the first target.
NS: Madame Chancellor, if the English could surrender Jaguar and Range Rover to Tata Motors and the Indians, you too must be prepared to sacrifice for the good of greater Europe.
AM: I am not going to the microphones to propose this nonsense; I will lose my coalition in the Bundestag over it. You’re facing defeat in any case, you do it.
NS: Madame, I have made a career out of finding someone else to go first to take the hit. You are the leader of European prudence and conservatism; you must go first, j’insiste.
(A long silence ensues between them – Merkel gives Sarkozy a deathly stare)
NS: D’accord! I will go get Italy to do it! We're saving the Italians next anyway!
AM: Fielen danke, mein President, you are truly showing your pan-European sensitivities. With leadership like ours, Europe is certainly saved.
(If any readers didn't get it, this is a satire.)