Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hang our heads in shame and pay the German bondholders?

The EU commissioner for energy, Günther Oettinger of Germany, in an interview with the German tabloid Bild, suggested that the flags of countries with excessive deficits should fly at halfmast in front of EU buildings.

In his comments he referred to “deficit sinners,” who needed “unconventional” treatment to help them mend their ways— possibly through officials appointed by Brussels and imposed in recalcitrant capitals. “There has been the suggestion too of flying the flags of deficit sinners at half-mast in front of EU buildings. It would just be a symbol, but would still be a big deterrent.”

Would it? Really?

Another tactic for pulling a debt-stricken country out of crisis could be replacing “the obviously ineffective administrators” there, he said. Because Greek officials have failed at collecting outstanding taxes and selling state-owned assets as planned, Oettinger alleged, experts from other EU countries should be sent in to do their jobs instead.

Oettinger later denied suggesting that the flags of “deficit sinners” should fly at half-mast and said he was merely referring to a notion he heard in the office of a German tabloid. Asked how it had come about that Oettinger made such remarks, his spokeswoman said, “It just came out.”

But in a letter to the president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, 151 MEPs said that Oettinger’s comments “imply the symbolic humiliation of European nations. Mr Oettinger should retract and recant his words, or resign from the European Commission.”

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