Late on Tuesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that markets had been wrong to drive up borrowing costs for debt-strapped Spain to unsustainable levels. Then Schaeuble commenced his three-week vacation.
Considering that a number of euro zone countries are cash-strapped and have been routinely making the news for overwhelming ratios of debt to GDP, rising and unsustainable borrowing costs, billon-euro-bailouts, Prime Ministers imposing some austerity measures on their holidays would seem in order.
Indeed, Greece’s Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, is not only foregoing time off. He expects his cabinet to do the same and, as government spokesman Simon Kedikoglou, says, to “be at their offices from very early in the morning.”
Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy has no vacation plans though he has left his schedule empty between August 6 through 7.
Pedro Passos Coelho, the Prime Minister of Portugal which was the first EU nation to request a bailout, is taking two weeks of vacation early August in his own country. Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy, which has not needed such drastic measures, is taking only one week off in the middle of August — but then, his government has less than a year to implement austerity measures.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also off for her usual break of two to three weeks. She has already been sighted at the Bayreuth Wagner Opera Festival at a primer of “The Flying Dutchman” whose plot, Business Week commented, may have some personal resonances for her: “Condemned to roam from European summit to European summit in search of a solution to the euro crisis, she may have sympathized with the ghostly Dutchman in Richard Wagner’s opera.”
Socialist French President Francois Hollande seems set on maintaining his reputation as “Monsieur Normal” by staying put for his vacation in France, in deliberate contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy who passed his time off on wealthy businessmen’s yachts and in luxury villas. Hollande actually has a second home near Cannes but it is “too risky and too ‘showbiz.’” His partner, Valérie Trierweiler, has reportedly visited the traditional presidential summer residence of Fort de Brégançon, on the French Riviera. Owned by the French state it is, though, a “magnificent edifice atop a rock in the Mediterranean”: When Monsieur Normal is also Monsieur le Président, some adjustments must be made.
On Thursday, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, said in London that it is prepared to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro.” His statement was certainly well timed and markets liked what he said, with the euro rising against the dollar.
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