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GEOFINANCE/ Europe: A rehearsal for divorce?

JAMES CHARLES LIVERMORE discusses the trends at the beginning of the European Union that led to the current possible breakdown, and offers some options for moving ahead.

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With the succession of major elections all over Europe, a trend seems to be consolidating among the countries of the Old Continent: the desire to dismantle everything. The French presidential elections, the Greek parliamentary elections, the first skirmishes of the German electoral campaigns, the administrative elections and rumors of early parliamentary elections in Italy are all united by a general feeling of anger and frustration, fueled by an unfortunately increasingly evident consideration: there are many problems, and they are obvious, and the solutions do not seem to be right around the corner.

At this critical juncture, the EU could become the scapegoat on which to saddle blame, both just and alleged blame, with the ill-concealed intention of reviving the old nation states as improbable bulwarks against the crisis. The signs are not lacking. The Luxembourgian President of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced his intention to leave at the end of his mandate well in advance, citing in no uncertain terms the "interference of France and Germany" with the work of the whole group. In the same hours, the then Socialist candidate to the Élysée, the new President François Hollande, claimed that the German Chancellor should have compromised on the rigor. In response, Angela Merkel released statements on Monday that were not particularly open, saying that the tax deal "is not open to negotiation". Add to this the blatantly anti-European reactions that greeted David Cameron on his return home after the negotiations. According to the press and British subjects, he was too conciliatory with regard to the European fiscal pact. Then comes Italy, where now almost everyone, from comedians to economists, delight in promising idyllic scenarios that would come about with the dissolution of the euro and the return to the lira.

In this bleak panorama, does it still make sense for the peoples of Europe to seek common solutions? Is it still worthwhile to continue the integration and to stay together in an economic and monetary union that could, there are many who wish it, become a political union as well? A reasonable answer hinges on a conclusion about the last twenty years, five of which took place in full global crisis, of the EU as it was drawn up (or designed) at the signature of the Treaty of Maastricht. The task is less titanic than it appears. According to the ECB’s analysis, the '92 agreements and those that followed introduced a major economic phenomenon within the European Union, which the introduction of the euro accelerated sharply: the specialization of the European economy.