29/4/11

The European Ostrich Syndrome

     
Παρασκευή, 29 Απριλίου 2011 13:55
As an observer of political events in Brussels and in my home country, Greece, that I visit often and can testify to a rapidly collapsing social tissue, I am looking at developments at the two extremes, the highest point of European decision making and the lowest point of the citizen of a country in Southern Europe under extreme duress. I cannot help but taken aback by the inconsistent and ineffective attempts to fend off attacks on the Euro and the European Union itself. These attacks are driven by speculative forces liberated till now from state regulation and supervision mainly but not solely due to globalisation of untouchable modern financial services.

So many resources, so much time and political capital are spent looking at parts of a reality that cannot be tackled in slices. European institutions, with a mild support from the other side of the Atlantic and a lot of signs of guilt, focus on tackling the economy, energy, environment, immigration, multiculturalism, global competition, the future of the European social model and other dimension of the European experiment. But resist in attacking frontally the obvious core of all of that; the future of the European Union as an entity that needs to be equipped with a strong and clear political identity, a no-go debate area in the past.
The elites of European affairs from all member states and Brussels liked to hide behind the premise that EU has evolved and prospered through crisis. But it is fair to say that today’s crisis does not resemble with any of the past, being much deeper and immeasurably broader whilst the rest of the world is moving very fast into the future.
Start with the challenges in the financial world and the economy as an example. Everybody recognised early the wedge north-south in economic performance as well as the immaturity of financial infrastructures and mismanagement of public administration resources and finances in the South. The phenomenon did not fall from the sky overnight. Member states have been monitoring the gaping chasm increasing through the years even before the Euro experiment was decided in the early 90s. However, beyond broad and ambiguous agreements on financial flows, actions to manage this phenomenon was member states prerogative dealt with at intergovernmental fora under the principle of non interference in each other’s political affairs. This has now led to some members having lost a major part of their sovereignty to transnational and international institutions. They are driven mainly by global financial forces poorly regulated, in spite reactive attempts by the other members to salvage and to the detriment of social and political stability in all EU member states.
Then looking at the migration issue, in our view probably more serious and potentially explosive, we have also ample evidence of the realisation that the multicultural experiment has failed, at least for flows from countries outside Europe with radically different cultures. The ease of integrating immigrants of Southern Europe with strong cultural affinity to the North in the fifties and sixties was a misleading indicator. But we still see little concerted action for the development of a comprehensive policy that will balance European society’s capacity to absorb and integrate resources it really needs with the reality of existing minorities across the EU, the disproportionate influx pressures of Border States and the protection of people in genuine need of political asylum. The spectacular increase of popularity of far right parties across Europe is a sure sign that a serious threat is underestimated. And yet this area remains mainly a member state prerogative with accelerating friction between members as recently between Italy and France or Greece and Spain with all the others earlier.
Similar evidence for lack of European political momentum exists in other areas such as energy, environment, global competition and the future of the European social model. The common denominator in all this is lack of cohesion of member states.
It is easy to say that the EU lacks political leadership but this is unfair. Some of the more mature EU countries leaders today have shown more than adequate capacity to lead an evolving Europe on the pattern of the past.   The problem is that the EU today stands at a critical juncture. It is facing major ascending competitive forces on the world arena and starker opportunities and threats to its survival. It thus needs a change of gear in its path towards a deeper integration to project its political and economic weight.
Europe has the leadership capacity to move on but needs a major campaign of communication to citizens across the EU that will project these opportunities and threats to a politically integrated Europe compared to those to a segmented one. The view for financial sacrifice of the North and severe fiscal and social discipline in the South is too simplistic to be convincing to either side in reasoning for a move towards a much deeper integration. It needs a campaign that will be a European one where the member states will fall in line with this one message and will not deviate in interpretation confusing it for national political gains. It will amply shed light to the citizen’s behavior as ostrich against an oncoming storm. The difficulties for such a move are not underestimated but it is perhaps now more critical than ever before to revive the vision of our forefathers for an integrated European society with a strong cohesion as the best guarantee for the future of our children. They will live in a world that offers plenty of opportunities but could be a lethal threat for isolated peoples of the European continent.

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