If the Union wants to overcome the crisis, it has to “run forward.” It means that it has to build an actual federation.
Only a genius or an ignorant is able today to predict in all probability the future of Europe. Fortune telling and futurology is a field for naive people, whose predictions never come true. In this short text I will try to point out the possible directions and their consequences rather than envision certain future.
The European Union finds itself in a particular crisis caused by faults in the
management of this institution. The Union became a hybrid, which does not allow countries to pursue independently an effective economic policy on the national level. An effective economic management of Europe is also impossible from the Brussels’ level.
European countries didn’t take seriously the contract they made between themselves. The Stability and Growth Pact, the mechanism whose idea was to enable the functioning of the euro zone without the real pan-European economic government, remains only an empty declaration on paper. The pact was broken by everybody: starting with Germany and France, finishing with the tragic Greece.
At the same time the dependency of the decision-makers on the voters was lost in this complicated system puzzle. The lack of democracy results in the shortage of the natural filter, which channels social frustrations. Who is actually ruling the Union today?
The latest election in Greece and France have debunked the myth, that it is the Chancellor Angela Merkel who turned out to be powerless in the face of this system. The consequences of this situation are very serious. Firstly, they deepen the consequences of the recession, so harmful especially for the Southern countries.
Secondly, what is more important in the long run, due to the errors in the system and not complying with the commitments the European spirit is vanishing. Whole communities start to turn their back on the idea of integration. It may bring the worst consequences and put to the test the project of open, compatible and peaceful Europe we know.
The conclusion is as follows: the present system must be changed. Theoretically, the European elites are aware of that. But for many years the problem has been the lack of high quality leadership among the European politicians and union bureaucrats. The necessary changes need brave visionaries, the Europe today is ruled by bureaucratic administrators.
The second problem is the condition of the European public opinion, which is very apprehensive of the further integration. It seems that we are dealing with a dramatic discrepancy between what is necessary and what is politically possible. So what changes seem to be necessary?
The first way, of which I am a fan, is a classic “run forward”: federation. Creating a pan-European, true economic government, which is selected by all Europeans in a democratic election. This is the solution, which would make Europe a body that could be successfully ruled.
It would also bring the true democratic citizen control over the government, which decides about their future. It could also reverse the anti-European social moods: the Europeans would directly decide about their future.
What is more, it would finally create the true European public opinion. There would not be a risky construction of the monetary union without the true economic union. The responsible economic European government would not allow for a situation like the one in today’s Greece as it would follow the discipline of spending public money.
The second way is a “retreat” and abolishing those union mechanisms, which intensify the problems connected with the crisis. It means a controlling liquidation of the euro zone and revival of the rule that basically national governments decide about their economic policy.
The supporters of this thesis claim that the Union has to be based on mechanisms which are beneficial for every country in every situation. In conditions of crisis the inability to support overcoming from a difficult economic situation by correcting the exchange rate condemns the countries in trouble to even worse social and economic deterioration.
It is questionable whether this thesis is true. But undoubtedly it would eliminate harmful tension, which is caused by the functioning of the monetary union. The union, which success actually depends on the rationalism of national governments, which, as we see today, has failed.
Will the necessary become possible? Is federation possible at all? Will the politicians be able to challenge the change of the system and make the public opinion enthusiastic about it? Or is it an action politically impossible to conduct?
What is more, does creating a federation mean a radical division into Europe of two speeds, with a great domination of the group which will decide on the integration and processing marginalization of the rest? Will we be able then to still speak about the Common Europe?
Federation seems to be a good idea only when it is a pan-European project, not “the initiative of the wisest”. If we speak about the second scenario, will the politicians be brave enough to dissolve the euro zone? Who would take on the political and historic label of the “gravedigger” of the integration?
The inertia should be broken. Thus the biggest danger is continuance of the present faulty system. The European Union will not collapse because of the bankruptcy of Greece and its leaving the Union. But it can collapse, if the system which has led to such a situation in Greece will still function and threat next countries.
What is more, this system is double risky as it creates a disagreement between societies and nations. The Greeks think they are hurt by Brussels and Berlin. The Germans think they are deceived by irresponsible Athenians.
This situation speeds the wheel of aversion between nations: it gives the feeling that the Union is unjust, which can lead to a disaster. It can be changed either by a pan-European democracy or realization of each nation that this bad situation is an effect of a wrong policy of native government, it is not the fault of “those” from Brussels, Paris, Athens or Berlin.
Thus impossible must become possible. We don’t want to know what may happen if the Europeans stay passive. The common, open and peaceful Europe is too valuable.
Translation: Kamila Kwiecień