The EESC President’s two-day conference on this theme is over. Given the gravity of the situation (jobs lost, homes re-possessed, shrunken savings) it would be inappropriate to adopt a congratulatory tone but, from the organisational and content point of view, the conference was a big success. It also generated considerable media interest. The conference press release can be read here. See pictures of the conference here. A summary record of the proceedings is being prepared. There were two common themes among speakers, no matter what sector they represented: we need more Europe (inter alia, a European regulator); we need more long termism (a paradox in parliamentary democracies with relatively short term electoral cycles). What I propose to do in the remainder of this post is bring you a flavour of the conference through a selection of ‘soundbites’ (see ‘read the rest of this entry’).
Mario Sepi (EESC President), arguing for qualitative as well as quantitative approaches: ‘It can’t be right for Roman streets to be choked with vehicles designed for the desert.’ ‘Adam Smith’s invisible hand was a utopia.’
John Monks (Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation): ‘The big risk with the banks now is that they’ll take no risks.’ Monks also recounted his meeting with a (London) City financier who told him; ‘I’ve got some longterm investments; they were short term investments that went wrong.’
Pervenche Beres (MEP and Chair of its Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs); ‘Nobody will survive in the long term if there are only short term strategies.’ She also reported an observation made by an EP colleague about the way they were expected to work on various legislative texts in the financial field; ‘We’re working without an architect.’
Daniel Gros (Director, Centre for European Policy Studies); ‘You can’t have a credit boom without a bust.’ ‘Nice times come and go and you can’t hardwire this simple fact into regulation.’ ‘Twenty seven tolerable risks became an intolerable strain for the overall system.’ ‘We have to have incentives for institutions to say ‘no’ even in the good times.’
David Wright (Deputy Director General, European Commission, DG MARKT); ‘We have a financial system that is like a gruyere cheese.’ ‘Nobody was aggregating the risks.’
Reiner Hoffmann (Deputy Secretary General, ETUC); ‘Markets need crash barriers.’
Pierre Wunsch (Director, Cabinet of the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance), on rescuing the banks; ‘It’s like a fireman being thanked for having put out a house fire only for people to complain the next day about the water in their basement.’