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Will the European Union Survive?

 
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:01 pm
The recent crisis in the public finances of Greece, and the near critical situations that exist in other EU countries, have brought into focus the political and economic contradictions that the so far remarkably successful European Union has evaded - until now. The combination of economic union and relative political independence is the contradiction I have in mind here. This is an issue that the EU has so far successfully evaded, even through voter rejections in referendums in Holland, Ireland and France. Now, having created a common currency and then abandoning the 1997 Stability and Growth Pact provisions designed to ensure probity in public finances (after even Germany and France violated its terms), the EU is confronted with a severe financial crisis that brings not only the stability of its currency into question, but also the political unity that supports the union as well as the sustainability of the much touted "European Model" of social welfare programs. What will it take to reassure German savers that short-sighted Greek or Spanish governments will not undermine their economic achievements? What new restraints on the public finances of Eurozone countries will be required to ensure the stability of the Euro? How will these restraints be enforced politically?

The next shoe to drop is likely to be the fast approaching symptoms of the underlying demographic crisis that has beset Europe for a generation now. About eight Eurozone countries already have declining populations. On average Europeans are already considerably older than all of their neighbors and their birth rates are correspondingly low. The ratio of working people to those living on government benefits is fast approaching the point of disintegration.
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Type: Question • Score: 12 • Views: 9,425 • Replies: 123
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View best answer, chosen by georgeob1
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:11 pm
@georgeob1,
I don't think that anyone besides some old, angry Anti-Europeans (plus a few younger inhabitants of the Britannic Islands) ever considered that the EU wouldn't survive.

The European Coal and Steel Community was formed at first in 1951 and later the Treaty of Rome, formed in 1957 by the same six countries, was the origin of the EU.

I sincerely doubt that we could fall back to a closed border policy like in the times before.

But who knows? Perhaps, you, George, have the better and broader insights.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:13 pm
@georgeob1,
IDK...Clearly the EU over-reached when they went to the Euro, and the political problems they face if they are to defend the Euro seem pretty insurmountable to me. Given how fragile the EU is can it survive over reaching on monetary union?

I think what we know is the the EU leaders are going to try to hold on to the EU dream. Now we need to wait and see if the citizens put a stop to it.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:18 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Quote:
I don't think that anyone besides some old, angry Anti-Europeans (plus a few younger inhabitants of the Britannic Islands) ever considered that the EU wouldn't survive.
so tell me Walter, are you a German first or a European first? National identity takes generations to die, and when what is best for Europe is not what is best for Germany we shall see more reversion to the old ways then you expect.

BTW- we already know what the Greeks think, they are Greeks before Europeans, in fact they barely give a **** about Europe...does this change things for you?
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:41 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:


But who knows? Perhaps, you, George, have the better and broader insights.


Actually, I believe I do. However, I am far from alone in this.

Why are you so liberal with your critiques of American social and political issues and so hyper sensitive to your own?
0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:57 pm
George hitting the hornet's nest Very Happy

Well actually I think that the EU will survive, however, having said that, I also
believe that "stepchildren" like Greece should be excluded from the
EU in the long run. It's a fact that some countries gained far more from
the EU (Ireland as example, George) as they have benefited the EU as such.

In my opinion, you only can form a healthy union with equal partners. As such
you can carry maybe one weak link but the moment you have too many weak links to carry, the entire union will suffer economically and financially.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:58 pm
@georgeob1,
As you know, i've already pointed out elsewhere in another context that Europe (western Europe, to be sure) was able to develop economically behind an American military shield. I don't think that calls for stupid remarks about them being ingrates, or cowards. We had our own reasons for being there, and to a large extent, imposed on our hosts (although largely, there was the single host of Germany--Belgium had a great net benefit from providing NATO headquarters without actually providing facilities for large numbers of troops). The French threw us out because of national conceit (a wonderful example of political manipulation and self-interest on the part of Charles De Gaulle), but equally because they didn't need or want us there, and were canny enough to know that NATO would not forgo the opportunity to include them in naval and air exercises just to keep them close to the alliance. And wonder of wonders . . . after 40 years, France rejoined and was welcomed.

The nations of the center and east have been eager to both join the European Union and NATO. To their credit, they have met NATO commitments admirably (to the anger and chagrin of Russia); to the annoyance of the rest of the EU, their people have flooded western Europe looking for and mostly getting good jobs.

Which leads me to observe that Europe's current problems result in large measure from immigration. Before anyone raises the racist issues of Muslim immigration, there has been a great deal of internal EU migration from the former Warsaw Pact nations to the NATO nations for economic reasons. The nations of western Europe may not have liked it, but they have accepted and adjusted to it. In the hooraw over Muslim immigration, that salient and very important fact gets overlooked.

So, yes, i'd say the European Union will survive. I know of no attempted union which has had to absorb so many economic blows and still maintained its standards. EU countries provide health care, housing and educational benefits that the United States, Japan and China do not pay. I'd say that, in fact, they're doing admirably well. Greece shows itself up to be a nation of whiners who have been unwilling to play fair with their own government, and who have brought their own problems on themselves. It is to the credit of the EU that they have bitten the bullet on behalf of those lazy sons-of-bitches. Portugal and Spain, i suspect, are suffering from the burden of maintaining social systems which their already weak economies can ill afford. Catalonia has been the industrial engine of Spain for literally centuries (and i do mean centuries--since 1492, and before that, they were the economic engine of Aragon, for centuries before Ferdinand married Isabella and made somebody of himself). Franco treated Catalonia very shabbily, and in the process neglected the best opportunity Spain had for 40 years to build and to "grow" her economy. It's been an uphill battle ever since. Portugal--well, Salazar screwed everybody, and the Portuguese were content with right wing dictatorship and the stagnation of a traditional peasant economy. They've got a hard row to hoe, too.

The European Union reminds me the United States before 1787, when it was a clumsy, limping, ineffectively governed "nation" of bickering states, jealous of their petty sovereignties, mistrustful of one another, and content to have bad government under the articles of confederation if it would preserve the illusions of individual prestige and importance. Long, long ago in a thread about Europe forming a strong union, i pointed out the shifts by which the constitutional convention in Philadelphia reconciled the petty jealousies and puerile suspicions which crippled the Continental Congress, and created a unified nation by concessions to individual sovereignty (the electoral college and the Senate with its unique powers), and wrote that Europe will have to do something of the same kind if they want to truly unify themselves. My comments were ignored.

When you consider that the current system is like a continual boat drill with dozens of crabby lubbers who can't find the business end of an oar, it's rather remarkable that they do as well as they do. In large measure, that's thanks to France and Germany with their relatively robust and stable economies. The EU will not, however, be able to dance this reel forever, and they will be obliged someday to either make a real government for themselves, or go their separate ways. I don't think any of them want to contemplate the latter possibility.
hamburgboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 12:59 pm
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
we already know what the Greeks think, they are Greeks before Europeans


so they won't accept any money from the other european countries ???
( because they are proud greeks , eh ? )
wadda ya think ?
....................................................................
i guess CNN must be wrong ... ...

http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/02/news/international/greece_bailout/index.htm?section=money_topstories

" greece accepts bailout money "
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:09 pm
@hamburgboy,
The Greek government has no trouble taking EU money, they have taken a lot and expect to take a lot more. If you check Public opinion though the Greek people do not want to take any money from either the EU or IMF.

What the Greeks will do besides take money remains to be seen. They certainly have never felt any compulsion to be honest with the EU, and don't have a history of considering themselves part of Europe. This should give Europeans pause when assuming ANY future loyalty from Greece towards Europe.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:17 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
The European Union reminds me the United States before 1787, when it was a clumsy, limping, ineffectively governed "nation" of bickering states
the flaw in your thinking is

1) we did not have states that had a long history of being successful states on there own

who also

2) know that they are big enough and strong enough that they don't need the US to continue to exist in order for their state to survive


hamburgboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:18 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawk :

the way i read european blogs , the greeks like the money but do not like the idea of having to repay the loans .
the greeks don't seem to like the "package deal " ( that is , reduced social benefits ) - they'd just want a gift .
perhaps they'll be able to persuade the european nations ( workers etc. ) to give them a nice gift .
i wish them luck .
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:22 pm
@Setanta,
I generally agree with your analysis and the analogy with the early history of the United States. I believe the question of economic union, particularly with rather unequivocal elements such as a common currency and somewhat ambiguous political union is itself an interesting issue that leaves open a range of good and bad outcomes. So far Europe has largely benefitted from this political ambiguity, using it to evolve the practice of unity and the structures that support it. Now they are confronted with a very serious adverse byproduct of it, and the question of their continued ability to maintain that ambiguity is both real and timely.

The western European nations did indeed persistently fail to live up to the NATO obligations they routinely reaffirmed each year. However that was largely based on their accurate calculation that it was still in our national interest to support them, given the high stakes confrontation with the Soviet Empire - more or less as you described it.. They of course used the economic savings to finance their "European social welfare model. I have no problem with that, however their subsequent criticism of us for our relatively more competitive and unequal society strikes me as self-serving and hypocritical.

I don't wish for failure of the European Union or even for any adverse outcome to strike the Europeans who comprise it. However, the crisis that besets them now is both interesting for its own sake and relevant to us here in America for the lessons we may derive from it.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:26 pm
@hamburgboy,
Exactly, and what do you expect normal germans to think, the ones who are seeing huge cuts in their pensions and overall government support due to lack of funds? They just got done throwing most of their wad (which took a generation of hard work after the war to build) at integrating (bailing out) the former East Germans, and now they are expected to bail of the Greeks, Spanish, Irish....

I think the Germans will decide that enough is enough...**** them, we don't need them. The French are perpetual dreamers who tend to be incompetent at everything, so they may be fine with supporting the rest of Europe even though they have the choice not to, but I don't think that the Germans are willing to go along with continuing to pay a crushing financial cost in order to keep the dream alive.
Francis
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:36 pm
George wrote:
However that was largely based on their accurate calculation that it was still in our national interest to support them, given the high stakes confrontation with the Soviet Empire. They of course used the economic savings to finance their "European social welfare model. I have no problem with that, however their subsequent criticism of us for our relatively more competitive and unequal society strikes me as self-serving and hypocritical.

What strikes me, my friend, is that your comment lacks of some financial basis.

The part of the defense budget the United States spent in those times, used to protect us, was quite feeble compared to the cost of the European social welfare model.

But I'm used to this kind of comments, that I see as piques addressed to friends..

By the way, remember vividly your comments after France decided not to engage in the Iraqi war. They were not that accurate, as subsequently demonstrated..
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:37 pm
@hawkeye10,
Of course there are some imperfections in the analogy Setanta used to make his point. There always are such things. Analogous situations are not generally identical. The essential truth here is that the point he made was valid and the analogy was useful in communicating it.

What is the point of your criticism?
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:39 pm
@georgeob1,
Quote:
What is the point of your criticism?


as I have said in a couple of places, that I expect the Germans to pull the plug on the EU.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:41 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

IDK...Clearly the EU over-reached when they went to the Euro, and the political problems they face if they are to defend the Euro seem pretty insurmountable to me. Given how fragile the EU is can it survive over reaching on monetary union?



Surprising, most forget that their was (and still is - as e.g. in relation with the UK) the European Currency Unit (ECU) .... since 13 March 1979.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:43 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

so tell me Walter, are you a German first or a European first? National identity takes generations to die, and when what is best for Europe is not what is best for Germany we shall see more reversion to the old ways then you expect.
[/quote]

To be honest: I'm only a German .... in e.g. the finals of international (European or World) football championship.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:45 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:


BTW- we already know what the Greeks think, they are Greeks before Europeans, in fact they barely give a **** about Europe...does this change things for you?


Well, I don't know more than maybe a dozen Greek personally.

I've never noticed a stronger anti-European opinion in any European country than in in the UK.

To answer your question: why should your opinion about what "we know" change my mind?
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 01:47 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:
They [...] don't have a history of considering themselves part of Europe. This should give Europeans pause when assuming ANY future loyalty from Greece towards Europe.


Really? Any example?
0 Replies
 
 

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