As Monsieur Giscard draws up his plans for a European constitution, our columnist applies for the job of SeÃ±or Euro
Like many people, I fill up a good portion of the day thinking about all the different jobs I could do, if only somebody would ask me. In my case, what I need is something that pays well, has plenty of prestige, but doesn't actually require too much in the way of real work.
I have applied to run the tourist authority for the City of Baghdad. And to head up the Vatican State Gaming Commission. Unfortunately neither application was successful. So I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring to become the new Herr/Monsieur/SeÃ±or (delete as applicable, but don't bother with Mister) Euro.
Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing has been drawing up his plans for a new European constitution and will submit a draft at a summit in Greece this month.
One of the proposals in the document calls for a European finance minister to work alongside the new European president. His job? To speak for the euro. But what would SeÃ±or Euro do all day? The best candidate will be the one who comes up with a clear definition of what the tasks will be. In that spirit here's my application. I just need to run a spell-check, look up one of those websites that will translate it into French, and post it off to Brussels.
Dear Monsieur Giscard,
I would like to be SeÃ±or Euro. I would like a big office and three secretaries (one German, one French, and maybe a Swedish one, but only if they vote 'yes' in the referendum later this year). I would also like unlimited expenses and the power to choose which famous monuments are put on the bank notes.
As SeÃ±or Euro, my main task will be to speak for the currency, although obviously without actually saying anything. My mission will be to reassure the markets, while not offending anyone. To that end, I will form a Stock Phrases Committee, composed of representatives of each euro country.
When the euro expands to take in 25 countries, some people might think that process too bureaucratic. So we will devise a complex formula for the production of stock phrases, based on the size and economic strength of euro countries.
Germany and France may contribute whole syllables, but small Eastern European countries will be restricted to vowels, while the Latvians may only comment on punctuation.
My plan is to make the production of stock phrases so complicated that nobody will be able to criticise it in case it looks as if they are too stupid to figure out how they are produced.
I have developed a draft databank of stock phrases. These will be built into a database so they can be downloaded by journalists without the bother of leaving messages with the French/German/Swedish secretaries. Each will come in a full on-the-record version for publication, with an off-the-record addendum so people know what we really think.
On the euro collapsing in value: 'We believe this is good for the euro countries because it will allow our great companies to export more to the rest of the world. It is no reflection on the success of our economy.' Off-the-record way: 'Actually it's part of a cunning plan to salvage all those bankrupt engineering companies in Germany. And we'll flood America with cheap imports and ruin their economy.'
On the euro soaring in value: 'We believe this is good for the euro countries because it will damp inflation, currently rising to almost 0.1%.' Off-the-record: 'This shows what a brilliant job we are doing, and how the Americans are really bust. How are they going to pay for that trade deficit now?'
On the euro drifting around, not doing much: 'This shows what a brilliant job we are doing in creating a stable economy.' Off-the-record: 'Phew, the markets have stopped beating us up. Now we can all focus on stuffing the Americans.'
On whether Britain should join the euro: 'We would like the British to join, but we respect the freely expressed will of the British people.' Off-the-record: 'Ha! They could have joined at the start but now they've blown it. With the pound collapsing, they'll have to stay on their own miserable, rainy little island all summer.'
In addition to the stock phrase, I also believe SeÃ±or Euro needs a snappy catchphrase to roll out on all suitable occasions. My good friend Wim Duisenberg, the president of the European Central Bank, likes to say: 'I hear, but I do not listen.' SeÃ±or Euro can do better. As I tour the disused factories of the Ruhr region or contemplate the empty shopping malls of France, I will say proudly: 'I look, but I do not see.' Oh, and can I be paid in dollars, please?
Yours sincerely, Matthew Lynn,
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