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Letter - Disgrace at the heart of Europe


Disgrace at the heart of Europe (October page 75) was a well-researched and informative article but perhaps the journalistic tendency to attack a glass as half-empty does not give enough credit for the progress made in getting the glass to the half-full stage! Two decades ago, the idea of a single capital market in Europe was preposterous but a decade ago, an empty glass was visible. Today, we can debate whether the glass is half - or three-quarters - full. That is progress.

David Shirreff criticized - rightly - the European legislative process for its slow progress in the last few years. But this is an inevitable part of democracy. Another great democratic state has just taken more than two decades to overhaul key parts of its financial services legislation that have been unchanged for two-thirds of a century. Are the national legislatures of Europe any faster when trying to reconcile diverse interests?

The key question now is how to fill the glass completely. It seems right and natural that the European Commission should take advice from those global practitioners that have demonstrated their commercial success in selling services to customers, wherever they are in the world. So DG15 should be applauded for creating an "action plan that bears the hallmark of people who know what they are talking about" - irrespective of their nationality. Indeed, the new Commission is committed - at the highest levels - to abolish national quotas in staffing, instead seeking those who can do the job best.

The remit to the advisory group was sensible: Look at the financial services legislation a decade after its initial design - in the light of technological progress, the fact of a single currency and the likelihood of enlargement. The upshot was an Action Plan that is comprehensive and logical - thus including many components that may have been on the table for a long time but remain necessary. Now indeed each "piece" has to pass through the political process of democratic review - but that piecemeal necessity should not detract from the coherence of the underlying plan.

Yours, Graham Bishop,
adviser on European financial affairs, Salomon Smith Barney, London