Pan Drakopoulos: To give back Europe to the Europeans
To give back Europe to the Europeans
1. It is not the first crisis in Europe
Indeed today the European Union has reached the marginal bounds of its existence, yet this is not some historically unique event. The first time that Europe was threatened to be smothered to death was when its plans to create a defensive European force, independent of NATO and able to defend the purely European geopolitical interests, failed resoundingly. The ongoing Russian nationalism which outlasted Stalin’s death as well as Charles de Gaulle’s return to power in 1959 bolstered the forces of nationalism on both wings of the political spectrum. Those political circumstances were key impediments, undermining the plans for a union of Europe. Years of substantial embarrassment went by and everybody spoke of the end of the vision for a European Union. There were many endeavors to jump-start the unification mechanism and yet it was not until 1986 that the Single European Act was signed and an end was put to the 30 year-long ominous crisis.
2. The crisis of Europe is not -just- the crisis of the euro
These days we find ourselves -once again- witnesses to the European Union dealing with an existential crisis; we find ourselves once again before the questions of whether the Union is possible and which is its raison d’ être. The media in Europe and all over the world consider that the focal point, the point over which the fate of Europe is decided, is the future of the euro. This is not some collective misunderstanding: the fate of the euro will certainly decide the future of the European Union, but it would be a grave mistake for us to believe that the problem of Europe is loan issues and capital markets, as it would be a historically dramatic mistake to think that the problem of Europe will be solved by bankers.
The financial crisis surely appears to be a crisis of and about the euro, but things neither start nor end with the single currency. The future of the EU certainly depends on the fate of the euro yet even the most firm and immediate policies, policies which themselves would lead to fiscal streamlining and lift market pressure, would not end the crisis of the EU. Even if all the right decisions are magically taken, even if all of the local economies become solvent overnight, the kind of crisis that the EU is dealing with will continue its corroding, destructive, work. Verily, it will be just then that the real nature of the European crisis will be revealed, its nightmarish face fully unveiled, and for that reason we should dare and face now -sooner than later- the disease that threatens the European foundation.
We must see and speak the truth about the crisis of Europe. Such is each European’s duty, even more each Europeanist’s. Keeping away from messianic complexes and each according to one’s strenghts, we should try and resist the dissolution of the European Union. Regardless of how influential our voice is, our silence should not echo over it.
3. What is the euro?
The euro was not created to be the currency of the EU the way the drachma was for Greece or the mark was for Germany. It was not created, that is, to be a national currency. A national currency expressly requires a united, established state and yet the euro was brought to life even though there was no single unified state, no single fiscal policy, no single taxation, etc. The euro aspired to be precisely what is shown on the back of its notes: a bridge between the peoples, an arching path from the “across” to the “along”.