It would be an over-simplification to say that the Italian team beat the Germans in Brussels as well, after having knocked them out of the soccer championship so convincingly. But looking beyond the undoubtedly incisive role played by Mario Monti and the somewhat overcast expression of Angela Merkel - the real winner to emerge from the Justus Lipsius arena, that austere headquarters where the Euro summit was held, was the euro currency itself. It was a demonstration of what a few tugs at the bridle can do when one is directed headlong towards the edge of a precipice. The single currency will live on and survive the controversy of recent months and the Hamlet-like crises of doubt expressed by so many European leaders, with Angela Merkel at their head. The German Chancellor continued her attempts to curb and direct the natural evolution of this unfinished European project right to the bitter end. But the strongest political signal to emerge from Europe today is that of a willingness to press ahead, with ranks more or less united, along the road that will eventually lead to a true political union. Today, this path leads through the anti-spread shield so strongly desired by both Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy, and over the bridge of a 120-billion-euro growth pact.
Tomorrow will see a European tax on gains from financial speculation, the so-called Tobin tax, and a banking union comprising shared vigilance and a sharing of the guarantees for the zone's citizens.
If Europe had been called upon to provide a loud and clear reply to the markets and to International speculation, this reply has indeed been delivered: it may have come with the Byzantine meanderings so typical of Brussels negotiations, but delivered it was. Following months of debate over austerity and financial discipline, an initial growth pact has been launched: this may well prove insufficient, but it nonetheless marks a decisive turnaround in European strategy. The Tobin tax is to go ahead through strengthened cooperation - a key concept for the construction of a Europe of the future. Important steps have also been take towards a banking union: a fundamental pillar for a real common governance of the European economy. But above all, an important signal has gone out to the markets: virtuous countries that come under attack from international speculation will now be able to use a powerful instrument, with an ECB bail-out fund - even though controversy over the submission of sovereignty involved may return over the coming days. But the building blocks of a common European house have been brought on site and if Europe really wants to play a leading role in meeting the challenges of the coming years and wants to be a protagonist in this era of globalization, these are the ingredients it will need to have in place. In the rounding of this important strategic promontory in European policy, a leading role has been played by Italy in the person of its prime minister Mario Monti.
Italy has gotten what it wanted through taking a determined stance that is almost unprecedented among previous Roman ministers. The European match still has a long way to run, and many pages are yet to be written, with the role to be played by the ECB in debt sharing and the concession of important aspects of national sovereignty to Brussels being important ones. While the European Football Championships come to an end, Sunday's final will feature the countries of the two winners in Brussels last night: Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy. From their positions in the Kiev stadium, where they will be able to see another Mario who did so much to eliminate Germany from the competition, the two leaders will certainly be feeling a lot more relaxed at the prospect of the opening of the stock markets on Monday morning.