Monday, June 11, 2012

A Sneak Peek at Tomorrow's Europe

June 11, 2012

European leaders have long insisted they will do everything to save the euro. Now, a plan is forming that would dramatically change the architecture of the European Union. Brussels would be granted a significant say in national budgets and debt would be communalized. But the hurdles such a plan might face are high.

Politics is a strange business, and one of its premier oddities is that monumental changes are rarely heralded by great speeches. Addresses indicating a shifting course tend not to be of the visionary variety. And the public attention paid to such utterances often has no relation to their far-reaching consequences.

Often, in fact, it is only a tiny verbal adjustment that hints at a great change. Or a slightly different tone presaging a new direction.

Listening closely to Chancellor Angela Merkel in recent weeks has revealed just such a change in tone. It has been a careful shift, extremely nuanced. But it has become clear that her well-known melody is now a new one.

"We need a so-called fiscal union," she said during an appearance on German public broadcaster ARD last week. "Which means more joint budgetary policy." Up to that point, Merkel had merely repeated that which she always demanded. But then came the new tone: "More than anything, we need a political union," she said. "That means that we must, step by step through the process, give up more powers to Europe as well and allow Europe oversight possibilities."

Merkel is carefully preparing the public for the possibility that great changes are coming and that established certainties are no longer valid. Her message is that Europe only has a future when the Germans too give up large portions of their national sovereignty. That is the extent of her message, but it is plenty nonetheless.


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