October 27th, 2011
06:08 PM GMT
Brussels (CNN) – Travelling to Brussels this weekend on the Eurostar, one couldn't help feeling as though the train was moving into the abyss: The endless money pit that was soon to become the "no eurozone."
Upon my return journey, all things euro appeared somewhat to have regained their star quality, after European Union leaders finally reached a deal on how to solve the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.
At around 4:15am local time Thursday, and after hours of fraught negotiations, a pale and exhausted French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, mounted the podium in room 20.45 of the European Council. He was there to brief his compatriots, European neighbors and the world. Finally – it seemed - disaster had been averted.
After two summits in four days, the heads of the European Union's 27 members –including 17 of those that use the euro - agreed to what they called a “lasting” and “credible” solution.
The solution consists of a three pronged attack on the crisis. Firstly, the European Financial Stability Facility – or bailout fund – will be boosted four or five fold by borrowing. The value of Greek bonds will be slashed in half and finally, the region's most precarious banks ordered to raise their reserves of cash to protect against a financial shock.
The package – worth over a trillion euros – is certainly ambitious, but was it worth waiting for?
The term “11th hour” was never more apt, because in this case it did take these leaders 11 hours to see eye to eye.
If you think that is tough, spare a thought for the two thousand accredited journalists, many of whom, like your correspondent, waited 22 hours for the deal to be signed.
After the EU's first working session wrapped up sometime around 8:30pm local time, we were treated to a rather lacklustre formalization of plans to tackle the banks' balance sheets.
This was expected, but irony was noted: Who would have thought that the banks - the main protagonists of the 2008 crash - would have been the easiest hurdle to overcome?
By 11:30pm, it became obvious we were in it for the long haul. Rumors of a deadlock between officials and private bondholders of Greek debt heightened the tensions and sharpened moods.
Spanish wire journalist Maria Tejero Martin, and colleagues from the Efe news agency, gave up hopes of getting out to celebrate her birthday. They popped open a bottle of cava and serenaded her with a Happy Birthday song.
The room applauded. Cake was handed around.
By midnight the bar had stopped serving Belgian beer, much to the disappointment of some British colleagues who instead sat there glumly nursing cups of Belgian coffee.
One blogger tweeted "500 journalists held hostage by EU leaders at the European Council"' – drawing a humorous comparison with the tense situation at Tripoli's Rixos hotel earlier this year.
Another warned of a previous EU agricultural summit in 1988 that went on for four days.
I chipped in with tales of my days covering the seemingly endless conclave in Rome which saw Pope Benedict XVI succeed John Paul II.
The politicians weren't the only ones with bailout fatigue.
About an hour before the high-level wrangling wrapped up, the leaders left the room, recalculated some sums, checked their figures and went back in.
At 4:15am, as a new dawn began, the financial fireworks kicked off with confirmation of a consensus reached.
The framework was there and so were the figures, exceeding many dwindling expectations.
Today the world economy breathes a sigh of relief.
Europe's leaders appear stronger, and re-united after their lovers' tiff. But unless the summit's plans are implemented with all possible haste we are not yet out of the woods.
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