I don’t believe it (again): Brussels shuts for the summer

July 28, 2010

This is the time of year when I often wonder whether I am the last person left standing; everybody else seems to have departed for the beach, the mountains, the little house in France…..  I am tempted – and yes, I’m giving in – to repeat that catch phrase from a wonderful comedy series on television here in the UK: ‘I don’t believe it’.

No, I mean what I say: I don’t believe it.  How can business and government in Europe be taken seriously when with the arrival of summer everything grinds to a halt?  I am told that Brussels is deserted and will remain so until late August.  I have no meetings there until early September.  A glance at the pricing (low) of Eurostar tickets to Brussels confirms that right now the train service from London is deprived of the support of its regular cohort of politicians and lobbyists shuttling to and from Brussels.

All this might just be trivially amusing, and no more than that, were the world we live in not such a serious and challenged place right now.  You might have been tempted to think that this very precariousness of our world would demand less time ‘on the beach’ and more time trying to restore things to what might be remembered as normality once upon a time.  But you would be wrong, apparently.

Inevitably the issue that continues to be of most concern to us in the EACT – the future regulation of derivatives – is at a crucial stage in its progress through Brussels.  And where are the bureaucrats and politicians who should be working on it?  For the most part, they also are on the beach so far as I can tell.  Brussels contacts report that there are ‘caretakers’ in charge of the Commissioners’ cabinets.  Amongst native English speakers the term caretaker suggests someone who opens and shuts the door and occupies much of the rest of the working day with a bit of desultory sweeping of the floors (the ‘concierge’ of those wonderful apartment blocks on Paris).  Maybe that is what is happening in Brussels right now.

There are rumours that deep in the heart of the Commission there remains through late July and August a small group of vacation-phobes, who are conspiring to rush through the regulation of derivatives whilst everybody else is assumed to be distracted by the pressure of taking a holiday.  The EACT will be vigilant (I am tempted to indulge myself and say that the A team chose not to go on holiday for this reason!) and will engage with the Commission once again as soon as their proposals emerge.  We are pleased that the signs are that key people in Brussels have listened to us; there appears to be a real concern to see that the final outcome does not do as much damage as the original proposals threatened to corporate risk management.

My vacation?  An extended one later in the year.  I’m sure nobody will notice.

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