November 22, 2012
It is more than obvious that the European Union is experiencing a huge identity crisis. These two years of austerity politics have signified the end of a big circle that started with the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the establishment of the three pillars of the European establishment. It is unfortunate, but this circle is ending with one of the most unexpected outcomes that someone could predict 20 years ago: that of institutional, economic, and political breakdown of the EU.
This crisis has literally unveiled some of the most striking and crucial deficiencies and gaps of the institutional capacity and design of the Union. It came to a period of deep instability regarding what the shape of the new global order would be. President Obama was just elected for the first time in 2008 when the previous administration was underway, dealing with mortgage bubble and its side-effects in the global economy. Obama’s first term was less ambitious than expected, as his efforts for retriggering global growth and reaching an agreement on how dealing with debt handling have never been finalized. Yet, he insisted on shaking America’s deepest fear, that of providing large-scale healthcare treatement to the less privileged, pressing insurance companies to the edge, both in terms of expansion policy and social responsibility. His second term seems more vague than his first one when referring to the crisis, and therefore any prediction for further steps would be nonsense for the moment.
China has been lately hit by interim scandals on the deepest lenses of the Communist leadership, a fact that perplexes the strategy that the most populated country in the world is intended to shape. As China was gradually preparing and externalizing its political requesites for global prevail, it is now apparent that Beijing will withdraw its extrovert maneuvers and try to secure its rampants of growth. China is not as much affected from the crisis as Europe and the US at first sight, but if someone looks deeper it would realize a scaring fact: as China has deeply invested in US bonds, a possible and sudden meltdown of the US economy would sweep China as well to uncontrolled recession.
Europe is in the middle of these superpowers being more squeezed and dependent than determined and goal-oriented. To some extent, it is positive that this crisis has stirred EU’s structural questions, but I doubt about the timing. Three years earlier would be possibly better for the EU to start acting rather than just pondering on how we will move on or debate about it for years and years. Unfortunately, under such circumstances the European Union is exposed to any further financial and structural threat, a fact that could potentially lead to a vacuum of governance or even worse, to dismantling.
I believe that Europe is entrapped into its own financial and institutional design, a deadlock invented by Europe itself. It is evident that the EU ha no intention, power, and will to address the crisis in a more pragmatic and realistic way, away from simple estimations about the fate of euro or whether Germany is imposing its profitable policy against the entire, European monetary establishment.
To overcome the crisis, which I repeat it is more a matter of identity and not that much a matter of financial management, Europe should consider acting as follows:
a. involve the European Parliament into decision-making along with the European Commission.
b. bring the European Commission closer to the people of Europe, as for the moment it is mainly seen as a distant body that decides for the European citizens without the European citizens. This means that Commission’s election should take a widespread character, involving people into direct voting, debates and campaigns.
c. start behaving as superpower, a stance that supposes collective confidence and a sense of responsibility vis-à-vis the European citizens. EU is by itself a regional and global player and this should be exerted in any possible field of policy.Dimitris Rapidis