Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Grand Ol' Men of Finance are Stirring

Elsevier: "Old men sound alarm in open letter"

The grand old men are stirring in Europe. Otto Graf Lambsdorff is 81, Jacques Delors becomes 83 in July, Helmut Schmidt is 89. The three famous former Finance Ministers (Schmidt was also German Chancellor for many years, and Delors a famous president of the European Commission) are amongst the signatories of an open letter to Danilo Türk, President of Slovenia, and temporary chairman of the European Union.

The letter was also sent to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The fourteen signatories, Social Democrats and Liberals demand the speedy establishment of a European Crisis Committee, made up - yes - of the old wise men who - together with renowned economists and financial experts from all continents - should analyze the financial crisis in the world and propose measures.

The promoters of the letter, who presented it to the press today in Strasbourg, are somewhat younger. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (64) , former Prime Minister of Denmark and now a prominent member of the Socialist PES Group in the European Parliament is involved, as well as co-presenter Michel Rocard (78), former Prime Minister of France.

The Romanian Daniel Daianu (55) was only for a while Finance Minister and is now a MEP for the Liberals.

Why all these political vedettes? Because the fourteen are clearly hoping to make an impression, so that the European Union urgently establish the advisory committee they advocate. They fear more is going on than just a temporary financial glitch.

The entire financial system must be re-viewed, is in fact their message, with more transparency about what institutions do and heavier demands made upon them.

Moreover, there is the emergence of 'alarming gap between the rich and poor,' they write.

The fourteen: ''Financial markets cannot neglect social ethics. Decent capitalism demands effective public policies. Striving for profit is the essence of the market economy. But if everything is for sale, social cohesion will melt and the system collapses."

Yet it is remarkable that the old men are addressing Europe. The financial system is pre-eminently global.

Rasmussen says that American politicians have been informed about the initiative. "But the European Union is the largest and strongest market in the world."

And what about the existing plans in circles of people who now bear responsibility for the financial markets? Daianu acknowledges that there is a lot going on, "but we also believe that we must act quickly."

Rocard hopes to have a report within three to five months. One thing is certain. This list of signatories cannot simply be ignored by their successors. >>>

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