Sunday, July 31, 2011

Europe’s Sovereignty Crisis

by Joschka Fischer

Project Syndicate

July 31, 2011

Finally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted a new form of European Union. More than ever, the EU must combine greater stability, financial transfers, and mutual solidarity if the entire European project is to be prevented from collapsing under the weight of the ongoing sovereign-debt crisis.

For a long time, Merkel fought this new EU tooth and nail, because she knows how unpopular it is in Germany – and thus how politically dangerous it is to her electoral prospects. She wanted to defend the euro, but not to pay the price for doing so. That dream is at an end, thanks to the financial markets.

The markets issued an ultimatum to Europe: either embrace more economic and financial integration on a federal basis, or face the collapse of the euro and thus the EU, including the Common Market. At the last moment, Merkel chose the sensible option.

Had the European Council’s heads of state and government taken this foreseeable decision a year ago, the euro crisis would not have escalated to the extent that it has, the total bill would have been lower, and European leaders would have been rightly praised for a historic feat. But, as I said, back then Merkel did not dare to act.

The agreement at the most recent European Council will be more expensive, both politically and financially. Despite doubling financial aid and lowering interest rates, the agreement will neither end the Greek debt crisis and that of other countries on the European periphery, nor stop the EU’s associated existential crisis. It will only buy time – and at a high cost. Further aid packages for Greece may seem impossible to avoid, because the losses imposed on Greek debt holders have been too modest.


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