Watch out for the Men in Black

Published on 5 June 2012 at 10:47

“The patient at risk has a guardian living in Brussels who keeps a packed suitcase behind the door. If things are getting too hot thanks to the force of financial friction, he grabs his suitcase, hops on a plane and comes to the rescue,” ironises editorialist Ignacio Camacho in ABC about the civil servants of the European Commission who hurry to countries that, like Ireland, Greece and Portugal, are signed over to a bailout plan.

For Camacho —

They call it a rescue, but in reality it is a kidnapping; they take over the sovereignty of the nation concerned and wire it up to shock treatment, until the now-happy patient relaxes a little. They are the Men in Black, the flying emissaries from the dreaded EU troika, the commissioners that Merkel sends to impose her airtight budgetary discipline. It’s a pitiless brigade whose presence always sparks panic in governments when things start to go the way they are going in Spain.

In the case of Spain, the Men in Black —

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… would neither hesitate before the trifles of our autonomous regions nor be moved by affection for the directors of our broken banks. Cold cleaning professionals like Mr. Wolf in the film Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino. Perhaps that is just what is needed in a country that has collapsed under the weight of institutional failure and a tangle of accumulated messes. But the action handbook of the Men in Black is relentless and frigid, impervious to nuances, and guided by a purely book-keeping logic.

Starting with pensions and unemployment benefits, they move on to taxes and civil service salaries and end up selling off all the assets that can be bought. When they finish, they leave the economy burned to the ground and politics mowed down to stubble, and depart arm-in-arm with the patient brushing the dust off their shoes. They may be able to clean up a nation that has sunk, but if there is any possibility of recovery they will leave it buried it under the rubble.

[...] If the Men in Black touch down in Madrid, Spain will remain at the bottom of a well of mistrust for many years to come, and everything that has been done so far will count for nothing. Rajoy’s job is to hold out, to buy time, to lash himself to the mast and see if the storm subsides; two weeks before the crucial elections in Greece, surrender would be meaningless, however grave and dark the watery horizon turns. It is a question of resistance under pressure: what we don’t know is how much time can go by like this before the Men in Black get on the plane with their pruning shears packed away in their sinister suitcases.

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