Merkel is from Venus. Hollande is from Mars.
That's the conclusion of a research report by the investment management arm of French banking giant BNP Paribas, which reiterated the pessimistic -- but now prevailing -- view that the upcoming summit of Europe's top leaders is likely to produce very little in spite of the ever-worsening crisis.
An eye-catching illustration included in the report, which was published Monday, explains why: Despite of being ostensibly committed to solving Europe's financial, banking and sovereing debt crises, and agreeing on certain boilerplate actions like better allocation of public spending and market liberalization, the Continent's top policy makers disagree on the more aggresive policies most experts believe are needed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, stands alone in demanding faster deficit reduction as a way to resolve the underlying fiscal conundrums fueling the sovereign debt crisis. French President François Hollande, on the other hand, believes in the opposite prescription: fiscal transfers and commonly underwritten bonds to cut national deficits. Spanish president Mariano Rajoy and European Central Bank chief Mario Monti stand somewhere between Merkel and Hollande, but don't always see eye to eye either.
It's almost like Europe's leaders are on different planets, the BNP Paribas report concludes, circling around a common solar system, but following markedly different orbits.
The report goes on to suggest certain actions that it notes would probably produce positive outcomes coming out of this week's summit: a softening of the European Union's stringent stance on the sanctity of Greece's bailout conditions, a commitment to use the ECB to directly bail out governments or national financial institutions by buying bonds, or a discussion of tighter fiscal integration that also includes talk of issuing common debt.
But there is not magic bullet, the report states and, in any case, the most likely outcome later this week is one where previously announced actions are simply confirmed.
That is, unless worlds collide.