The blog's been noticeably quiet the past week, apologies for that. I had two language exams for my French certification last week, and then this weekend I had a friend from London visiting. My life's been a lot busier than I thought it would be during this sojourn, non-stop French tests all week and then visitors from London on the weekends. It's fun though!
To answer the question I posed in my post last Monday, in the end the US did go ahead and follow Europe's lead on the bank buyout plan. It really has been an astounding thing to watch. Though it initially looked like the EU was stumbling in trying to devise a unified response to the crisis, over the past week that trend has been reversed and the EU has actually taken on a leadership role in the world's response to the crisis, with the United States following!
Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of the past week was to see UK prime minister Gordon Brown rise to the occasion and become the man of the hour. As BBC Europe correspondent Mark Mardell noted last week, Brown has suddenly become the leader of Europe, having devised the bank bailout plan which continental Europe shortly copied and then the United States followed. Though he initially failed to lead Europe with his first summit, French president Sarkozy's gung-ho 'throw everything at the wall and see what sticks' approach has actually served him well during this crisis. He was full of ideas when addressing the European parliament last week, saying the EU must lead in "overhauling capitalism." In fact it is Angela Markel - Germany's chancellor who is respected throughout Europe for her calm, steady and thoughtful leadership - who has really stumbled during this crisis, seeming almost erratic and lost. I couldn't help but smile when I saw Paul Krugman's piece in the New York Times last week praising Brown's leadership (on the same day that he won the Nobel prize, so it got lots of press). The UK had basically given up on Brown until last week. Now he's quickly rising in the polls, closing David Cameron's lead over him to single digits. As the saying goes, "cometh the hour, cometh the man." But how long will the praise last?
The new clout that the EU has during this crisis was in evidence at the Camp David meeting over the weekend. During this crisis the EU has some new clout and it is being wielded loudly by Sarkozy. The EU is, after all, now the world's largest trading block. And for the first time, the EU is being listened to seriously by an American president (albeit a lame duck one). Just to see the sight of a French president standing at Camp David and calling for regulatary overhaul of the world's financial system while the US president stands next to him was an amazing sight. And on his other side was European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, whose advice at the end of the summit that the world needs new rules and regulations and that these should be based on the European model, "not gung-ho liberalism." The fact that this is being taken seriously by the US shows how much things have changed in the past few weeks. Is this Europe's moment to take the reigns and devise a new global financial system based on European values? It seems suddenly, and unexpectedly, within reach.