Europe Needs a German Marshall Plan
12/06/2012 6 comentarios
(…..) The cautious leaders of European Central Bank argue that the euro treaties prohibit the bank from buying debts of member states; likewise, Berlin has resisted issuing any “Eurobonds” that the members of the European Union would have a collective duty to repay. But treaties can be loosened as well as tightened; they fit for a while, then must be revised. If European leaders and finance ministers were able in a weekend to agree on a pact that envisaged a punishing commitment to austerity, surely they can authorize the central bank to buy government bonds directly. Sober minds among German opposition understand this. Ms. Merkel seems to comprehend it, but, constrained in part by her own majority’s reluctance, she has been moving too slowly to halt the unfolding crisis, hoping that lining up harsher fiscal discipline will stanch the ebbing of confidence. Promise the impossible and supposedly the bond markets should rally. But this is wishful thinking. The history of last 5 years has demonstrated that political leaders can’t always rely on the market; banks are fair-weather friends, anxious to lend in good times, in danger of imploding in crises. Ultimately, the issue is not merely one of economic welfare. For over half a century, progress of European Union has provided a civic vision comparable to earlier aspirations for national liberation from dictatorships, whether Nazi or Communist. It managed to move millions of excess farmers off the land into new jobs without their mass defection to xenophobic populist parties. It has led to a huge exchange of young students and workers, reintegrated formerly Communist nations of Eastern Europe and accommodated a united and wealthy Germany without a destructive revival of earlier anxieties. And in the future, the European Union is needed for the Continent to remain a significant international actor in a world organized around powerful regional groupings. Ultimately, the path to “more Europe” will require granting European Parliament a far greater share of control over Europe’s public expenditures, even if many European Union experts might be scornful and the British would balk. European Union’s budget today is limited to less than 2% of total European G.D.P., whereas every major European country’s budget usually accounts for 40 to 50 percent of national output. Europe’s parliament should have the power to decide on the overall amounts to spend on welfare and pensions and support of the unemployed. Then European social preferences can be debated the way they are within every nation, through European-wide parties and parliamentary elections that will take on real significance. If German policies prevail, they will seem less coercive, and the national populist parties that have emerged with disturbing strength will be compelled to debate ordinary politics rather than demonize immigrants. Merkel is right; Europe must press forward, Germany is today the country on whose farsightedness European project hinges. Chancellor Kohl proved an unlikely visionary in 1989-90 when he urged both German unification and an enhanced European Union. Need for decisive policies has come again.