Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm not worried about the Eurozone, I'm worried about the EU!

Oh, time. They say it's a great healer, but it also papers over the cracks.  The European Union project has been an outstanding success.  Building on common interests, of trade, movement, security and even threatening to break out into a unified force in Global Affairs in the last few years, Jean Monnet would be very pleased.  But time makes us forget.  We forget what brought us together in the first place.  We forget the wars, the horror.  We forget the divisiveness of nationalism, let alone ultra nationalism.  And so, while in good times all boats floated on the success of the Eurozone economy, in bad times it's every country for themselves, and the strongest will dominate the weak.

Germany has enjoyed extraordinary privilege in its membership of the Euro, through persistently low interest rates and a willing export market at fixed, favourable exchange rates.  The Eurozone's success depends in many respects on Germany, but it is also true that Germany's perpetuation of its own success is dependent on retaining those privileges.  In simple terms, Europe needs to learn that when good things happen, they should be shared.  And when bad things happen, they should also be shared.  That has not been the case.

In a sense it was easy for Monnet, Schumann, and all the rest of them to cede sovereignty and make huge leaps in integration in aftermath of an appalling and hugely destructive war.  Nationalism seemed empty, useless, meaningless in the face of what we had all done to ourselves, and to each other.  We have forgotten all that.  Our motivations have reverted to isolated self-interest, and short term politics.  This is not a recent phenomenon.  The failure of successive governments and EU administrations to drive deeper integration, to make multiculturalism a success, to play down national pride in favour of regional belonging, has been stark. Our education programmes have not been strong enough, our political leaders have not been wise enough, and it appears now inevitable that we will all pay a terrible collective price for out naivete.  Great states and countries are born of fire - the new Europe came so close to building a single, federal state, but everyone failed.  Maybe we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves, it's never been done before.  And perhaps there are lessons in it for future generations who might be brave enough to have a go once more.

I am not feeling happy this morning.

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