Neelie Kroes thinks Dijsselbloem’s message has been wilfully distorted by people with their own agendas.
It’s always wise to weigh the advice of your predecessor carefully. To paraphrase Jean-Claude Juncker: ‘Jeroen, sometimes it’s necessary to lie’.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s predecessor as chairman of the eurogroup clearly knew what the market wanted to hear. It wasn’t so much the truth that mattered as keeping the markets happy. The saying that the ‘truth will out’ ceased to apply a long time ago.
Short-term thinking and the speed with which one event followed another makes us forget one lie as we embrace the next. This, apparently, is what the markets want. Tell the truth and you’re in trouble. You’ll be called inexperienced, naïve and even downright irresponsible.
The truth is that in Cyprus the tax payer won’t be footing the bill. It’s the shareholders and the big savers who were more than willing to put their money into a high-risk, high-dividends banking sector. Where did we see that before?
Blueprint or template
The truth is that the small Mediterranean island itself will have to contribute a substantial amount of money and that – against the advice of the eurogroup – the Cypriots proposed not to spare the small savers.
In the Netherlands it is the tax payer who is shouldering the cost resulting from the irresponsible risks taken by the SNS bank.
A new ‘model’ was chosen for Cyprus. Or was it a ‘blueprint’, or a ‘template’? Fuelled by a word that wasn’t even spoken, the markets, politicians and economic commentators burst into a frenzy of criticism. In Europe we seem bent on discovering mistakes, preferably with dire consequences. Everybody knows that each banking crisis is different and that each country will need its own solutions. And yet everybody and his grandmother is doing his utmost to conclude something else from Dijsselbloem’s words.
The truth is we want drama. And big, profitable market fluctuations. The new eurogroup chairman isn’t cynical enough yet. Perhaps he still thinks the contents of what has been truly said and agreed upon matters and not what every Tom, Dick and Harry with a political or financial agenda makes of it.
A lie might be a convenient tool and perhaps the truth has a way of not coming out but there’s another saying: honesty is the best policy. If we want to restore the confidence of citizens and savers in the financial sector we had better incorporate some.
Neelie Kroes is euro commissioner for the Digital Agenda.
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