2011 has been arguably the most intriguing year for followers of the EU. As the other three articles in this Special Edition of Next Europe illustrate, so much has occurred and so many individuals and institutions have found themselves in the spotlight.
There have been many villains, and a handful of heroes and heroines. Choosing a European of the Year will always be a contentious and purely subjective issue; however, as current editor the pleasure falls to me.
In third place sit the credit rating agencies, Moodys, Standard and Poors, and Fitch Ratings. Although they are not the only agencies of their type these three have had the highest profile over the last year. Despite contributing to the original financial crisis in 2008 and having a questionable system of regulation, The Three Stooges have continued to have a major influence over the functioning of the financial markets and the instability of the Eurozone. The leaders of the EU have spent the last year chasing the tails of these agencies and attempting to limit the erosion to confidence that these agencies seem so nonchalantly to chip away at. Hopefully in 2012 someone will be brave enough to ask what benefit these institutions actually serve.
In second place come a duo so affectionately referred to in the media as ‘Merkozy.’ Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have become unlikely bedfellows in their attempts to bring about a resolution to the Eurozone crisis. Despite some cynical media coverage and attempts to divide them, the dynamic duo has remained loyal to one another and has shown a degree of unity that is truly admirable. It has not all been rosy at Chateau Merkozy and they have certainly dawdled during precious decision-making moments. Although they still have a great deal of work to do in 2012, if it was not for their cooperation we may not be talking about the Eurozone with even the slightest hint of optimism at this point.
The moment you have all been waiting for. Next Europe’s European of the Year goes to… Christine Lagarde. She made history as the first woman to run the IMF and simultaneously inherited an institution in crisis, overseeing multibillion-euro bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
She has shown leadership and intelligence through her controversial and unpopular call for mandatory recapitalization of European banks, which was embraced and has partially soothed the confidence crisis in the Eurozone. As well as this, she has arguably been the only respectable European leader throughout the globe.
In a year when European leaders have done little to enhance either their or their continent’s reputations, Lagarde has presented a formidable and admirable example to the outside world. She is respected throughout the world and appears to have the conviction to act even when she knows that it will not make her popular. Although her brand of politics and economics are not to everyone’s tastes, she exudes confidence and in times such as these, confidence is king – or queen. Let’s hope that in 2012 European leaders can rise to her example and install some confidence in a system that can work.
Happy New Year from everyone at Next Europe!