28 MARCH 1998, Page 20


Alice comes to Euro-land, where everybody wins, and she has to dish out the prizes


When Alice fell down the rabbit-hole and into Wonderland, she found herself in a pool of tears. A duck and a dodo were swimming about in it, along with several other curious creatures. She led them to shore, but they had to get dry, and the Dodo suggested a Caucus Race. It set out a circular course and they ran round for half an hour or so until the Dodo announced that the race was over. Then they asked who had won, and this left the Dodo think- ing deeply. At last it proclaimed, 'Every- body has won, and all must have prizes.' In the Euro-caucus Race, the Dodo is an Emu. All of its flock have been running round in circles, pretending to dry their economies out, and this week brings the long-awaited result. Which of them has qualified for the great Euro-prize? Who can join the single currency and look for- ward to economic and monetary union? To nobody's surprise, the Emu has pro- claimed, 'They all can.' Everybody has won, all have qualified and in the first week in May all will come and claim their prizes. Alice might think that this was a comical race and an odd way of deciding things, that no handicap could bring this ill-assort- ed field of ducks and drakes together, and that the result was a fix. The Emu would call it a vision. Now she must expect them to crowd round her, calling out in a con- fused way 'Prizes! Prizes!' By the time she has handed out something to everyone, her pockets will be empty, except for a thimble. `Hand it over,' the Emu will say, before giv- ing it back, adding that this is a concession and will be subject to review. Of one thing she can be certain: the Emu's Caucus Race will end where it began, in tears.