I wrote this morning that I am done with the European Union. Not with the idea as such but with the club-management and its statutes. I don’t like the way it’s run, I don’t like to be looked from above with a snobbish hulled nose. Something went wrong with this club that used to be my favorite. I have been a EU supporter for the last 30 years. But recently this relation has started to break. I feel like appearing to a party I have not been invited yet I have to come up for the drinks. And that some of the hosts would love to kick me in the ass and out of the door. However they don’t do it. In fact, once I am in, they don’t let me go out. There is not membership <unsubscribe>. It’s not foreseen in the club. So I stay there and bear all these hostile eyes watching at me. How come? How did this club that lured me as a European ‘promised land’ turned into a cage and nightmare?
Gideon Rachman, columnist in Financial Times seems to have an answer to my question. It is a very sober approach, and you should read it.
The article is published here in KTG-Blog with courtesy of its author Gideon Rachman
Political union cannot fix the euro
By Gideon Rachman
Published: June 20 2011 20:26
“As the Greek crisis worsens, so voices are being raised demanding new and more radical approaches. Forget the
sticking plaster bail-outs and slice-by-slice austerity packages. The ultimate solution to the eurozone debt crisis is
Last week Nout Wellink, the Dutch central bank governor, became the latest senior figure to float this idea, when
he argued that the eurozone needs “an institutional set-up that has characteristics of a political union”. According
to Mr Wellink, “a European finance ministry would be an important step in the right direction”. Jean-Claude Trichet,
the head of the European Central Bank, has also backed the creation of a European finance ministry – which in
turn implies a much larger central budget and more decisions on spending and taxation taken in Brussels, rather
than in national capitals.
Those who argue that “political union” is the solution to the current crisis seem to believe that Europe’s problem
is institutional. Unlike the US, the eurozone does not have the political institutions to back up a common currency.
But if Europe was just equipped with a finance ministry or the facility to issue eurozone bonds or to tax citizens
directly, everything could be fixed.
This is a profound misdiagnosis of the crisis. The real problem is political and cultural. There is not a strong
enough common political identity in Europe to support the single currency. That is why German, Dutch and
Finnish voters are revolting against the idea of bailing out Greece again – while Greeks riot against what they see
as a new colonialism imposed from Brussels and Frankfurt.
To argue that even deeper political integration is the solution to this mess, is like recommending that a man with
alcohol poisoning should treat himself with a more powerful brand of vodka.
It is important to understand that the origins of the current crisis lie precisely in the dream of political union in
Europe. For the true believers, currency union was always just a means to that greater end. It was a way of
“building Europe”. If bits of the construction were missing – such as a European finance ministry – they could be
added later. Helmut Kohl, the chancellor of Germany in the early 1990s, was so convinced of the need to bind a
united Germany into the European Union that he was prepared to press ahead with the euro, in the face of 80 per
cent opposition from the German public.
At a seminar in London last week, Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister, who is one of the boldest
advocates of deeper European unity, was unrepentant in defending this elitist model of politics. He insisted that
most important foreign policy decisions in postwar Germany had been made in the teeth of public opposition. “It’s
called leadership,” he explained.
Such leadership is all very well, if it is vindicated by events. However, if elite decisions go wrong, they create a
backlash – which is exactly what is happening in Europe now. German voters were told repeatedly that the euro
would be a stable currency and that they would not have to bail out southern Europe. They now feel betrayed and
angry. Greek, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese voters were told repeatedly that the euro was the route to wealth on a
par with that of northern Europe. They now associate the single currency with lost jobs, falling wages and slashed
pensions. They too feel betrayed and angry.
As a result, the space for political manoeuvre is narrowing on either side of Europe’s creditor-debtor divide. The
Financial OP-ED COLUMNISTS
FT.com print article http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/7944de54-9b69-11e0-bbc6-001…
1 von 2 21.06.11 09:45
Greek government can barely muster a majority to force through its latest austerity package. The German
government of Angela Merkel is losing support and is facing an increasingly Eurosceptic public. Meanwhile,
radical anti-European parties are on the rise in other creditor nations, such as Finland and the Netherlands. Most
European leaders still blithely assert that they will do whatever it takes to save the euro. But these leaders operate
in democracies. If they take decisions that voters simply cannot accept, they will lose their jobs.
The relations between the peoples of the EU are cracking under the strain of the euro crisis. In Athens,
demonstrators wave EU flags with the swastika imposed upon it. In Germany, the euro crisis has made it
permissible to denounce profligate and corrupt southern Europeans. A single currency that was meant to bring
Europeans together is instead driving them apart.
The politics of fiscal transfer are tricky, even in long-established nation states. Think of the strains between
northern and southern Italy; or between Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium. But the tensions are far worse in a
newly created eurozone of 17 nations with different histories, cultures and levels of economic development. Simply
ignoring this – and trying to press ahead with a deeper political union – would invite an even more dangerous
backlash in the future.
But if political union is not the answer to Europe’s problems, what is? There are two possible solutions. The
eurozone leaders might somehow patch the current system up. Or the weaker members of the currency union –
above all, Greece – could leave. That process would be chaotic and dangerous. But Greece, as it stands, is a
demoralised country that has lost the sense that it controls its own government. Leaving the euro might just be
the beginning of a national regeneration.”