Saturday, October 18th, 2008
Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail
October 18, 2008
BRUSSELS – A week ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel found themselves strolling together through the cobble-stoned streets of Colombey-les-Deux-ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â°glises, a tiny village in the northeast of France, where they were attending a war-memorial ceremony.
The town is known as a place where French leaders, from the time of Charles de Gaulle, have gone to escape the world and restore their energy. There was much retreating and restoring to be done last Saturday: The previous day, their finance ministers had rushed home early from a Washington crisis meeting after stock markets had crashed dramatically and expensive national schemes to restore the credit system had failed.
None of the patchwork of plans appeared to work and the world economy was threatening to seize up. A few hours earlier, the head of the International Monetary Fund – a Frenchman – had declared that the world financial system was “on the brink of systemic meltdown.” Both leaders had been on the phone with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and they had agreed to follow his plan for governments to purchase major stakes in their countries’ failing banks, at huge expense. With that done, anything seemed possible.