As a result of the euro-crisis the Euro is more debated than ever before. This goes hand in hand with the debate of the limits of solidarity between the European countries and whether Europe should continue to develop itself from an economic union into a more political union, inevitably resulting in a transfer, to a certain extent, of national sovereignty to Brussels. As a result Euro-skepticism, already present since the beginning of the 21st century as a consequence of the growing uncertainty in the world (the fundamentalist attack on New York, the never ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic rise of superpower China followed by Brazil and India), is also rising . Since its foundation the European Union has never been under such severe financial and political stress.
People in the richer northern European countries are increasingly irritated by what is called ‘the economic laziness’ of people in the southern European countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Ireland, being a northern European countries, is wisely not mentioned. Populist political leaders are therefore against more guarantees for the debts in these southern European countries. Solidarity has become a dirty word, not only regarding Europe but the whole world. Call it what you may: national selfishness, short-sighted nationalism or protectionism, it is clearly an instinctive return to the national tribe that has been one of the pivotal causes for so many European wars.
Europe is like the rest of the world, a continent of national tribes or even regional ones such as the Basques and the Catalans in Spain, the Corsicans in France, the North Italians, the Balkan minorities such as the Serbs, Croatians, Macedonians, Slovenians, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims in former Yugoslavia (who have all claimed their own states), the Flemish and the Walloons in Belgium and so many others.
We believed that with the foundation of the European Union these national instincts would come to an end. Democracy and enlightened self-interest would slowly turn Europe in some sort of Super State, a kind of United States of Europe. By lack of a blueprint nobody knew how and when, but the believe was that European powers such as France, Germany and England would finally bury their hatchets. Europe would never again be the cradle of a world war like it had been twice in the past century.
This political dream now runs the risk to collapse under the weight of the euro-crisis. In The Netherlands, a government-party engaged itself to investigate whether a return to the Guilder would be an option. In Great Britain conservatives argue for a new referendum on Europe in the hope that a massive part of the population will vote against more Europe. In Finland a populist Euro-skeptic party gained the most votes in the last elections. In Germany there is a growing resistance against Europe calling for the return of the Deutsche Mark.
Under this growing pressure from populist political adventurists, Merkel and Sarkozy so far keep steadfastly seeking for a solution for the euro-crisis. Such a European solution should of course be democratic to prevent Europe losing its credibility. European countries will not escape from the need to transfer more sovereignty to Brussels. But this takes time. New institutions should be invented. The democratic legitimacy of the EU must be strengthened by giving more power to the European Parliament, economic and financial ties should be strengthened and more coordinated and perhaps European presidential elections should be held. And lastly but most importantly, a clear and consistent story should be told to all 500 million Europeans to take away all hesitations and doubts about the ‘European Project’. Trust and tranquility are the key-words.
For financial markets, however, this is all not going fast enough. They want and are in need of quick results in the form of cash and guarantees, if necessary without democracy, without solidarity and trust. Investors are very reluctant to give more time to Europe to strengthen the foundations of their European house.