Towards Europia? Germany and the euro crisis

(…..) Even assuming that politics will get it right in the coming period -after Karlsruhe judgment, with refinancing of Spain and Italy, the launch of the banking union- the real crux may well be Euroland has not yet written a narrative of the crisis that works in all countries, based on the mutual acceptance of errors (especially not from German side) and some generosity from there too, on some forgiveness from the southern side, and on clear commitment all countries in Europe exit this crisis together. The alternative may be rapid disintegration. If neurologists are right in saying that fear drives politics much more than motivation or big visions, Europia may actually be already in real danger. Rebuilding trust may matter most in times when policy seems more about damage limitation than about bold visions. Europe today, this is no secret, is disaggregating: the renationalisation of bond purchases and transnational credit-crunch are visible signs. Precisely because trust is broken, German debate especially is all about control + guarantees. Beyond this, Europe and euro cannot deliver on emotions and sentiments, passion and patriotism, even though these are crucial as glue for a common “we-sentiment”, the foundation of a unique selling-point, but one which Europe still needs to find for itself. A positive notion of the state and a balanced state-market relationship, something distinguishes Europe from US, China or Russia, could still be that precious, elusive quality. The current crisis is in this view about more than the technicalities of the ESM: it concerns the very project of a social Europe and a new European-wide contrat social, which is also able to put Gini-coefficient (the measure of social inequality) back into the bottle. Europe is, in this lens, suffering less a euro crisis than a social crisis. When Germany changed the former GDR currency into the D-Mark in 1990, a decision which most German economists regarded as economically more than questionable, it was the connective tissue of patriotism which sealed this political (but economically irrational) choice. The biggest hurdle to Europia seems to be that the notion of solidarity cannot yet be attached to European scale, but remains largely national; despite the fact Euroland has a single market, a single currency and a common industrial value-chain. It is interesting to note, though, economic self-interest simply does not appear to be the main prism through which German citizens assess country’s contribution to financial-rescue fund. Rather, there seems empirical evidence of sociotropic concern about the cost of the bailout to the German economy as a whole. Strongest predictors of voters’ stance on bailouts are measures of key social dispositions, such as degree of altruism or cosmopolitanism. Thus, characteristics that reflect individuals’ levels of generosity, empathy, and perhaps a broader conception of cultural affinity, seem better to explain voters’ positions on international financial burden-sharing. If this is so, then ultimately cultural openness or language skills may be far more important to build Europia than technical fixes of the ESM. Yes, it’s all about culture, but at this level, culture needs a political and economic channel. The moment it becomes clear that Germany wants not just to determine the economic direction of Euroland, but also its political dimension, by requiring a political union modeled after its own democracy, then everybody in Europe will be confronted with the same question: what price are we ready to pay for the value of Europe? Then the real discussion about Europia, its culture and it contrat social starts. The outcome is, still, pretty open!



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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