Euro Debt Crisis: Can't tell the players without a scorecard
I must admit to being a little bewildered by the complexity of the debt crisis in Europe. Part of the problem is that there are so many EU government entities involved as well as financial leaders in the various European governments.
This article in the Economist seeks to name the players and institutions that have the responsibility over the next few months of avoiding economic catastrophe:
Germany's slow response also has something to do with the personality of the chancellor, Angela Merkel. She is a physicist by training, methodical to a fault and ultra-cautious; faced with conflicting advice, her instinct is always to put off a decision. She may be fully committed to the project, but for her Europe is a cost-benefit calculation rather than historical destiny.
Not so her finance minister and one-time rival, Wolfgang Schäuble, a disciple of the ex-chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Mr Schäuble, who is wheelchair-bound since an assassination attempt in 1990, does not demur when interviewers describe him as the cabinet's "last European". His relations with Mrs Merkel have not always been easy. She became chairman of her Christian Democratic Union in 2000 after Mr Schäuble was forced out of the job over his involvement in a party-financing scandal. These days the Merkel-Schäuble dynamic is watched as closely as bond spreads. At least once, the chancellor has countermanded a deal struck by her finance minister. Mr Schäuble is hawkish on the need for fiscal discipline and may be readier than Mrs Merkel to push Greece into a default, yet he is also more prepared for greater integration in the future, including joint Eurobonds, which the chancellor opposes.
Mrs Merkel may be lacking high-quality advice. Her newish economic adviser is Lars-Hendrik Röller, known for his writings on competition rather than high finance. He replaced Jens Weidmann, a long-serving adviser with an economics PhD who took over at the Bundesbank in May. Mr Schäuble, for his part, has Jörg Asmussen as his Europe man, a Social Democrat kept on for his experience of financial fire-fighting. But Mr Asmussen is heading for the ECB, where he and Mr Weidmann-it is hoped-may be more flexible than their predecessors, Juergen Stark and Axel Weber. His replacement, Thomas Steffen, was the chief insurance regulator.
There are 17 countries that have to approve any changes to the central bank or other institutions dealing with the Euro. The question: Is this set up functional enough, efficient enough, and nimble enough to respond to the crisis?
We'll find out in the next few months.