Friday, May 18, 2012

Does Europe Exist?

Europeans need to decide whether or not Europe exists. If it does, the rich need to act accordingly.

If Europe exists or wants to exist in the future, if there is a community of like-minded people who care about each other and want to stick together, then the fortunate need to help the unfortunate. This remark by former European Central Bank Executive Board Member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi is typical of Europe's problem:

Ireland has made huge progress over the last year. It is really a pity what is happening in Greece is spoiling all this. Without the Greek events, I think Ireland would be able to come back to the markets. [Bloomberg 5/18/12.]

Well, of course, without those who are in trouble, those who are not would be better off. What is the point of such churlishness? The point, clearly, is that "we" are out for ourselves and could care less about our neighbors. And there are currently more than a few rich Germans who think exactly the same thing about Ireland.

Domino theories usually don't hold much water, but the idea that eliminating Greece will only pull the plug on Spain...and Ireland is hard to dismiss. It is beginning to appear that the only Europe that exists is the old one that brought us a century of fascism and war. Is there a European community or are there just rich and everyone else?

It seems unimaginable for Europeans to turn their backs on the society that gave democracy to the West, but if the Acropolis no longer means anything, if the various little nationalities over there don't want to be Europeans working together in the face of adversity, here's an option: all the Mediterranean societies can walk away from the EEC, leaving it to the cold-hearted Germans who apparently are now quite happy to discover that they won WWII after all. It is not clear what that would accomplish in economic terms since Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece all face the same economic challenge, but at least they might have empathy for each other. And I perceive certain gentlemen standing in the shadows with welcoming smiles on their faces. Erdogan, Gul, and Davutoglu today constitute the most innovative decision-making team in the neighborhood. Could they lead a Mediterranean common market to a better tomorrow?

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