Geithner's arrival tells you how bad things are in the eurozone

UK officials say it's like 2008 all over again.

The fact that Timothy Geithner is flying in for today's meeting of European Union finance ministers has been widely reported, but the significance hasn't been duly acknowledged.

American Treasury Secretaries don't drop in at Ecofin meetings on their way to the shops, because they happened to be in the area, because they had nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon. This is a sign that Washington is alarmed and impatient watching EU governments fail to get to grips with a crisis that threatens to upend the global economy.

I touched on some of this in my column this week, but that was more about the domestic implications for the Tories.

The institutions that were designed to manage the single currency have failed and there is no political will -- not least because there is no domestic political constituency in any eurozone country -- to start redesigning the project in a way that would be financially sustainable for the long term.

The bottom line is that financial markets will not be reassured until there is some progress (not just a statement of intent) towards a deal that puts the whole German economy up as collateral for Greek and Italian and Portuguese debt, and the rest.

Now why would the Germans sign up for that? Well, one answer is that their banking system will collapse if they don't. But that just feels like blackmail so, not surprisingly, they resist.

I strongly recommend this piece by Wolgang Munchau in the FT (behind a paywall unfortunately). The gist is that Germany's constitutional court has effectively ruled out any level of fiscal integration deeper than the current stabilisation mechanism, and that is failing. So the thing that would resolve the crisis -- a major political project to embed the euro in new institutions -- is unconstitutional in Germany.

I generally try to avoid sounding apocalyptic, because it is often too easy and lazy to paint the worst case scenario and claim it is inevitable. But things really are looking very bleak for the euro now.

The coordinated intervention by central banks yesterday to keep commercial banks liquid is another short-term fix. The revealing thing about it is that the central bankers felt they needed to act and managed it because they are less constrained by the complex and competing demands on EU heads of government. In other words, central bankers acted because elected politicians can't.

That says a lot about the dysfunctionality of European governance in a crisis.

I spoke to a senior Treasury official recently who told me the whole situation was reminding him of the run-up to "recap weekend" -- the period between markets closing on a Friday and re-opening on a Monday when Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had to put together a plan to save the banking system from collapse in autumn 2008. Not a happy flashback.

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

#Match4Lara
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#Match4Lara: Lara has found her match, but the search for mixed-race donors isn't over

A UK blood cancer charity has seen an "unprecedented spike" in donors from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds since the campaign started. 

Lara Casalotti, the 24-year-old known round the world for her family's race to find her a stem cell donor, has found her match. As long as all goes ahead as planned, she will undergo a transplant in March.

Casalotti was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December, and doctors predicted that she would need a stem cell transplant by April. As I wrote a few weeks ago, her Thai-Italian heritage was a stumbling block, both thanks to biology (successful donors tend to fit your racial profile), and the fact that mixed-race people only make up around 3 per cent of international stem cell registries. The number of non-mixed minorities is also relatively low. 

That's why Casalotti's family launched a high profile campaign in the US, Thailand, Italy and the US to encourage more people - especially those from mixed or minority backgrounds - to register. It worked: the family estimates that upwards of 20,000 people have signed up through the campaign in less than a month.

Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, also reported an "unprecedented spike" of donors from black, Asian, ethcnic minority or mixed race backgrounds. At certain points in the campaign over half of those signing up were from these groups, the highest proportion ever seen by the charity. 

Interestingly, it's not particularly likely that the campaign found Casalotti her match. Patient confidentiality regulations protect the nationality and identity of the donor, but Emily Rosselli from Anthony Nolan tells me that most patients don't find their donors through individual campaigns: 

 It’s usually unlikely that an individual finds their own match through their own campaign purely because there are tens of thousands of tissue types out there and hundreds of people around the world joining donor registers every day (which currently stand at 26 million).

Though we can't know for sure, it's more likely that Casalotti's campaign will help scores of people from these backgrounds in future, as it has (and may continue to) increased donations from much-needed groups. To that end, the Match4Lara campaign is continuing: the family has said that drives and events over the next few weeks will go ahead. 

You can sign up to the registry in your country via the Match4Lara website here.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.