Kai Ryssdal: We could give you the latest on the European debt crisis right now. Except in all honestly, there’s no real news. They’re still talking about it. But that, in and of itself, is worth a mention because it’s tough to talk to people you don’t necessarily like.
Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is on the line from London to explain. Hello, Stephen.
Stephen Beard: Hello, Kai.
Ryssdal: So, we talked earlier in the week, Monday, about some of the personality issues that are going on here. Let’s expand on that a bit today. What do we know about how these leaders feel about each other?
Beard: If we’re talking about the three key figures — the French, the German and the Italian leaders — relations are poisonous. They all seem to detest each other. I mean, starting with Berlusconi, he’s apparently seething since the other two — President Sarkozy of France and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel — cornered him and gave him a dressing down at the last summit, accusing him of failing to get his government’s finances under control. Merkel and Sarkozy can barely conceal their contempt for Berlusconi when they were asked at a joint news conference whether they felt reassured after their meeting with the Italian leader. They just smirked at each other and exchanged ironic smiles.
Ryssdal: What do we know about how Mr. Berlusconi feels, though?
Beard: Well, Berlusconi, we know what he feels about Angela Merkel — however, it is unbroadcastable. There were reports that Italian investigators wire-tapped some of Berlusconi’s private conversations in which he made some extremely unflattering remarks about Angela Merkel, that he didn’t find her personally attractive. One can imagine that the feeling is entirely mutual.
Ryssdal: Yeah, one can. What about Merkel and Sarkozy, though — how do they get along?
Beard: Dysfunctional seems to be the best way of describing that relationship. She is said to regard Sarkozy as two-faced: when they meet, he can smother with gallic charm — one witness described the performance as syrupy. But as soon as she leaves the room, he changes tact and starts running her down. She’s said to be extremely hurt that Sarkozy told another leader, ‘Merkel says she’s on a diet, but when the cheese trolley comes around, she’s in there like a shot and wants a second helping.’ So they don’t get on either.
Ryssdal: Oh no! That’s horrible. Is there any chance for anything substantive to happen as long as these three as so key to the negotiations?
Beard: Something substantive has to come out of this, and what we’re getting so far is just an outline agreement. These leaders are going to have to settle and submerge their differences and produce something. The international community demand it.
Ryssdal: Stephen Beard in London with a little bit of insight there. Stephen, thank you.
Beard: OK, Kai.
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