(AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) European Union Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Ollie Rehn
On Monday, Ollie Rehn, the dough-faced Finn who serves as the European Union economic and monetary affairs commissioner, briefed the European Parliament on the latest bad news about Europe's economy. Second-quarter growth fell to 0.2 percent in the Eurozone as a whole (compared to 0.8 percent in the first quarter). German quarter-to-quarter growth tumbled down from 1.3 percent to 0.1 percent. France's fell to zero. Eurozone manufacturing output contracted in August.
Last week, amid continuing turbulence in European bond markets, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in Paris in the latest attempt to bring the nearly two-year-old euro crisis under control. As was expected, the results were dismal. The best the conservative leaders of the two most important countries in the Eurozone could muster was a proposal that would enshrine balanced-budget rules in the national constitutions of member states and a typically vague pledge to move toward a common "economic government," giving Brussels greater powers of intervention in national budgets.
In dealing with the European debt crisis, this week's European Union (EU) summit attempted the quantum leap forward called for a few months ago by the head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet. Following days of intense negotiations, European leaders agreed on a new, 109 billion euro loan package for Greece and a set of supporting measures aimed at laying to rest bond market worries about the credibility of the Euro in a grueling session that started at 2 in the afternoon and ended not long before midnight. In the next few days and weeks, as details of the agreement are fleshed out, it will become clear whether Europe has finally managed to get a grip on the crisis.
Giulio Tremonti is obviously a man who thinks highly of himself. This weekend, Italy's embattled minister of finance confided to the Corriere de la Sera newspaper that a political attack which resulted in his resignation "could bring down the euro."
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) An elderly man watches the smoke of tear gas during clashes at the Athens' main Syntagma square.
Eurozone leaders and bankers sighed with relief and Greeks on the street groaned in disgust as debt-saddled Greece approved a new round of austerity measures Wednesday. Including 28 billion euros in spending cuts and tax increases through 2015, the concessions were a necessary condition for receiving the fifth tranche -- about 12 billion euros -- of last year's 110 billion euro loan from emergency lenders. Without it, the country would probably have defaulted in July.