The European Union was brought into existence by what Karl Popper called “piecemeal social engineering”. A group of farsighted statesmen, inspired by the vision of a United States of Europe, recognised that this ideal could be approached only gradually, by setting limited objectives, mobilising the political will needed to achieve them, and concluding treaties that required states to surrender only as much sovereignty as they could bear politically. That is how the postwar Coal and Steel Community was transformed into the EU – one step at a time, understanding that each step was incomplete and would require further steps in due course.
Following the financial crisis, there emerged a two-speed Europe, with debtor countries sinking under the weight of their liabilities, and surplus countries forging ahead. The decades-long process of European integration quickly turned into disintegration. If this seemingly inexorable process is to be arrested and reversed, both Greece and the eurozone must urgently adopt a plan B.
But Europe’s political establishment continues to argue that there is no alternative to the status quo. Financial authorities resort to increasingly desperate measures in order to buy time. But time is working against them: the two-speed Europe is driving member countries further apart. Greece is heading towards disorderly default and/or devaluation, with incalculable consequences. It should be possible to mobilise a pro-European silent majority behind the idea that when the status quo becomes untenable, we should look for a European solution rather than national ones. Continue reading »