Jun 28 2012
The yin and yang of European Union
Often outsiders have a better view of what is going on than those close to the action. A researcher at a United States think-tank has produced an interesting analysis of the current ‘Euro-crisis’. He believes that far from weakening the European Union the current crisis could be used to strengthen it.
The European Union (EU) should heed the maxim of the former United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) that “…out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, of higher decency, of purer purpose”. The EU is not on the verge of collapse, he argues: far from it. On the contrary, the EUs leaders should seize this opportunity to consecrate a principle of continuity of the union. He believes we Europeans need an FDR to tell us: “…this is no time for fear, for reaction, or for timidity”. This is a time to create further Union.
The current situation does not need to end in catastrophe or failure, it can be seen as a sign of a common willingness to adapt and evolve. There are no valid reasons for Europe to be set in stone. Despite the uncertainties, difficulties and tensions between its Member States – Europe is maturing into a stronger Union. While the EU as we know it may disappear, it was the enthusiasm for a Europe we never knew that drove integration this far. There should be room to tolerate mistakes and misguidance in one of the most ambitious political and economic projects in history.
There are many ideas on the table for the summit: the European Commission’s project for a banking union; the plan by Germany, France, Italy, and Spain toward a genuine economic and monetary union; and a compact for growth and jobs. There must be negotiation and compromise. France has already conceded that a mutualisation of debts will take several years to achieve and will demand stronger political integration. There is a need for a clear vision and strategy for Europe.
Only a long-term perspective will restore the confidence that is needed to overcome the debt crisis. But a growing aversion to risk and a fear of failure are hampering any visionary action. And as long as decision-makers fail to believe in the immense opportunities that lie ahead, neither will their people.
Whatever the outcomes of the crisis are for the EU institutions, it will have shown how indispensable and innovative the accountability processes has become for strengthening and deepening integration.
He believes that economic loss is often a political gain and that a political loss is often an economic gain (the yin and yang). Indeed, only a political decision will resolve the economic woes. It nonetheless remains to be seen if greater political unity should be a prerequisite to sustainable economic recovery. Decision-makers have to avoid a chicken and egg dilemma: what comes first between political, economic, monetary, banking and fiscal union? As difficult as it might be, negotiating all aspects of unity in a single package could constitute a vital step forward, provided that everyone commits to the overwhelming but necessary process of a Treaty change.
It is undeniable that a grand vision will not resolve all of Europe’s many pressing problems – short-term measures are needed to stabilise the situation – but one is nonetheless required to re-evaluate the relationship between member states and European institutions, to reform the very structure of European economies and to preserve existing social models.
The hardships of today are a clear indication that the EU’s current structure and mandate are no longer sufficient for it to advance. While a lot may change over the next few weeks, the European Union will continue to exist. That is a message we should all take heart from.