ALMUNIA'S HIGH-WIRE ACT.

PositionJoaquin Almunia, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs

Joaquin Almunia has inherited one of the most dangerous high-wire jobs in Europe. The Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs finds himself suspended at high altitude, and between a rock and a hard place.

Beneath him yawns the terrifying prospect of the collapse of the European Union's entire policy for Economic and Monetary Union - and with it the Euro.

On one side of the chasm is the stony will of recalcitrant and powerful Member States. On the other is the still-fragile edifice of EU rules.

The proposals for which he won Commission backing this week are a daring attempt to reconcile seemingly impossible tensions.

But the plan is constructed from flimsy materials that may be insufficient to bridge the gulf, or to prevent him tumbling into the void of lost credibility, along with the currency system he is responsible for defending.

The inescapable reality is that EU controls on the underlying conditions for the Euro are inadequate. Two major Member States have already breached the rules without any penalty. And Member States who choose to ignore the rules remain de facto free to do so.

The new formula is hardly the clear guidance that could help restore faith in a system coming increasingly under question. Joaquin Almunia describes it as "neither more flexible nor more...

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