Soros speculates on European politics

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The Independent Online
He acts like a political leader, he speaks like one, he even looks a bit like one, he certainly pontificates like one, and to witness the way he is courted by journalists, businessmen and some real political leaders, too, anyone would think he was one.

But, in fact, he's just another multi-billionaire who has decided quite late in life that money isn't everything, that a voice on the international stage is what it is all about.

This is George Soros and he's been in his element over the past few days at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Davos is more a conference about ideas than action and as such is a perfect venue for Mr Soros and his proposed cures for the world's many problems.

His latest obsession is European Monetary Union. He hosted a packed press conference on it yesterday: the way his pearls of wisdom whizzed around the world's news wires in its aftermath anyone would think it was Helmut Kohl or Jacques Chirac who had just spoken.

So this is what he thinks. Yes, monetary union will happen, and it will happen on time because the political will is there. "The train has left the station and, unless it is derailed, it will arrive at its destination," he said.

As for Britain, it would be very dangerous to stay out on a long-term basis because it would jeopardise inward investment. To go into the euro immediately might also be dangerous because Britain's economy is structurally so different from its partners.

Mr Soros regarded the euro as a flawed construction which will need further steps to make it work. "You cannot have a common currency without a common fiscal policy and this issue will have to be addressed sooner or later," Mr Soros insisted.

Interestingly, he doesn't hold to the fashionable view that there would be a collapse in the Italian and Spanish bond markets if they were excluded in 1999.

Mr Soros has begun canvassing business and political leaders to support the idea of a "Congress of Europe" to address the issue of political reform within the European Union.