Only a united, federal Europe can end its financial turmoil
The global financial crisis continues, threatening countries across the European continent. A united Europe requires a united solution. To survive this and future economic storms, the European Union needs the capacity to coordinate economic and fiscal policies on the federal level.
Three years after the onset of the most serious crisis since 1929 – and a year after the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon meant to consolidate Europe – financial turmoil continues apace across the continent. Neither the European Council, the Commission, nor the Central Bank is able to stop it. Individual member countries appear defenseless, like sitting ducks, before speculators who perceive the timid measures taken so far as an invitation to continue mounting their attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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In short, the financial crisis of the early 21st century has exposed the crisis of governance at the heart of the European project.
The EU today is trapped in the contradiction of a monetary union that lacks the capacity to coordinate economic and fiscal policies. Clearly, widely divergent policies of different countries within a borderless internal market that shares a single currency is untenable.
Historical crossroads and choices
Europe thus stands at a historical crossroads. It faces three choices:
1. Continue business as usual. That means riding out the unending storm day by day, mired in the clashing assertion of short-term national interests that feed off nationalist reactions and nourish Euro-skepticism. We will continue running after speculators, with ever more solemn statements that no country will be abandoned to its fate. Tentative steps will be taken to amend relevant treaties to overcome particular hurdles. Public opinion will turn against structural reforms that are perceived to be “imposed from outside as the price to pay for restoring market confidence.”
2. Yield to pressure from those who want a return to a simple free-trade area, without a single currency and internal market. That would mean that each country would again make do with its own currency, employing competitive devaluation to get out of a short-term jam instead of adopting long-term policies that would make that country globally competitive. Just when we most need a united Europe to remain relevant in a global economy, we would be yielding to the demons of history.
3. Move forward decisively on the path toward “federalization” of economic and fiscal policies. In my view, this is the right course because it is the only way Europe can emerge from the financial crisis that grips it today and become a competitive master of its own fate in the global economy.
Path toward federalization of European economy
Logically, this federalization should further be completed with a Common Foreign and Security Policy, for which the current treaty provides sufficient authority. Here, too, there is a divergence that impedes a forceful European voice on the global stage. While polls show the European public believes we should speak as a singular entity, ambitious politicians seldom resist fanning the flames of national passions.
The European Council should lead this effort toward federalization and a single global voice, including proposing the requisite changes in the Treaties, even when it may be expected that some countries of the Union may not wish to join this development. Reticence on the part of any state should not deter the will of those who want to follow this path.
Regulation and federal fiscal policies
Getting out of today’s crisis and moving ahead would require implementing the following policies:
Homogenizing regulation and control of financial institutions operating in the European Union. It is ridiculous for member states to maintain different rules in this common and integrated space where financial institutions operate freely. The absence of homogenous regulation will only sow the seeds of the next financial crisis and hobble Europe in the decades ahead as it faces new competitive challenges in the global economy.