Richard North, 20/10/2012  

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Published by the "quartet" as part of the package of documents for the European Council is an "interim report" entitled "Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union".

From this, one tends to think that the "colleagues" have no sense of irony. The logical conclusion from their title is that the current EMU (aka the euro) is not genuine, which rather invites the suggestion that it is fraudulent. And many would agree with that.

On the other hand, the phrasing – certainly of the opening paragraph – could be a cunning ploy, to protect the content from casual readers. Only the most devout of believers could read it without snorting with contempt, and moving on, or simply dissolving into giggles, unable then to read another word.

I mean to say, what does one make of this? At the June European Council "the President of the European Council was invited to develop, in close collaboration with the President of the Commission, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the ECB, a specific and time-bound road map for the achievement of a genuine Economic and Monetary Union".

No messing – you have to give them credit for their inventiveness: "a specific and time-bound road map". That really is a good one. I shall be wandering around all day offering perfect strangers the option of a "time-bound road map". Even if they are probably not as good as spiral-bound, they get an A+ for novelty value.

Anyhow, we're not yet past the first paragraph and there are another eight pages to go of this sort of guff. You don't have to mark it top secret. You could plaster this sort of stuff yard-high on prominent bill-boards and no one would read it. If the Germans had cottoned on to this in the last war, Enigma would have been useless. We would never have penetrated their secrets.

Dosed up with a shot of vallium, though, it is just possible to penetrate the thicket, long enough to see that the talk here is of an "integrated financial framework" which "must must comprise a single supervisory authority, a common resolution framework implemented by a common resolution authority, and national deposit guarantee schemes built on common standards".

We also see a plea for "stronger economic governance" and the bold statement that there is "a need to explore the option to go beyond the current steps to strengthen economic governance by developing gradually a fiscal capacity for the EMU".

Just in case you are so throbbing with excitement that the vision is going all blurry, you can calm down – they are not going to let you into any secrets. Such a fiscal capacity could take several forms, they say, and various options would need to be explored more in detail in the run-up to the December European Council. But at least we have something to live for – the December Council should be an absolute wow.

As a taster, though, we are looking at "asymmetric shock absorption at the central level". That will represent "a form of limited fiscal solidarity exercised over economic cycles". And this would have the effect of "improving the economic resilience of the EMU".

Thus we are told: "Elements of fiscal risk sharing can and should be structured in such a way that they do not lead to permanent transfers across countries or undermine the incentive to address structural weaknesses".

See what I mean? Even Bletchley Park couldn't have cracked that. A few hours exposure and the whole staff would have been running, screaming to the latrines.

Out of mercy, and a concern that the plod might confuse this with hate speech and come visiting (always possible seeing as they recently mistoook a blind man's white stick for a Samuri sword – so easily done, of course), I think I will have to spare you (most of) the rest.

The thing to look for, though, is page 8: "Democratic legitimacy and accountability". Needless to say, the "colleagues" mean the opposite, as they are talking about "further strengthened role of EU institutions", which "must be accompanied with a commensurate involvement of the European Parliament in the EU procedures".

This is new treaty territory. But, after a number of "concrete steps", we're back to the December Council for the presentation of that "specific and time-bound road map".

During the preparatory process, though, "informal consultations with Member States and the European Parliament will continue. Exchanges of views with other major stakeholders may also take place". Yay!  That's Merkel's "forum". 

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