The Euro: Looking for its nation.

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Definitely the topic of the year when it comes to economics is the Euro in its philosophy, stability and future. Will Greece be bailed out? What will it cost? Will Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have to be bailed out? What might that cost? Is it possible at all? Should countries be expelled from the Euro? While most reporting went on the numerous meetings and their outcomes, we focus here on the interdependency between hard economic facts and institutional processes on the one hand, and the psychological side of statehood on the other. As can be shown, the problems with the Euro reflect primarily a problem of national identity.
 
The Euro is a unique currency. Institutionally, it is backed not by a government of a country and its central bank but by a loose union of countries and a central bank created to serve them all. Historically, the Euro deviates in its very existence from the normal developmental pattern of currencies. The introduction of a common currency was in history always the pinnacle of political and economic unification. In contrast, the Euro was intended to serve as a common factor   to encourage the countries of the European Union towards integration. In fact, its origin is hard to locate. The idea of a common currency reaches back into the sixties, but realization was delayed until the nineties. Influential German weekly “Der Spiegel” regularly speculates that this concept for the Euro was designed by Chancellor Kohl of Germany and President Mitterrand of France to tie the now reunited Germany to France forever. What makes matters even more complicated is that the Euro did not become the currency of the whole of the European Union. Two large countries, the United Kingdom and Poland, and some smaller countries, e.g. the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Sweden kept their local currencies. This national individualism reflects the problem of the European Union in general. Not all liked this economic unity and it was never agreed upon on which path the Euro and the European Union should travel when it came to integration and real power sharing. On the contrary, all member states of the Union stress their sovereign rights especially when it comes to their households. Germany’s Supreme Court recently confirmed a prior ruling that it is the sole privilege of Germany’s parliamentarians to decide about any funds. The fiscal measures and external controls imposed mainly by Germany and France on Greece would not be possible for these countries themselves.
 
This does not mean that the Europeans dislike Europe. In fact, many  love it, spending their holidays in their neighboring countries, studying or working there and sharing food, cars, commodities, and lifestyle. But they have in common a strong skepticism when it comes to their own local politicians. This skepticism turns into real dislike when it comes to European institutions. These institutions are simply hard to sell in their rights and functions. In front of a national sovereignty expressed in local royalty, presidents, chancellors, and their parliaments, it is not easy to understand what all the people in the big office complexes in Brussels are actually doing. Evidently they create complicated texts which are not taken too seriously by the national governments. Most governments did not dare to submit the Maastricht treaty, the central document of unification, to a public referendum, and those who dared sometimes needed to have it voted upon twice to achieve at least a narrow majority.  People seemed to be right in their choice, for what are these treaties worth? When France and Germany violated the 3% GDP debt barrier of the stability pact in 2003, the stipulated fines were not imposed but just a few eyebrows rose. As far as national debt is concerned § 195 of the Maastricht Treaty states in one clear sentence that no country can be held liable for the debt of another one. And when Denmark this summer became afraid of having to harbor refugees from the “arabellion” in Northern Africa, border patrols keeping them out were reactivated.
 
Barrack Obama mocked that the G20 summit in Cannes taught him an obviously incomplete lesson on how many institutions and voices have to be heard when it comes to European affairs. However, his obvious relief that governing the US may be easier at least when it comes to the institutional side, points to the ever growing complexity of the European Union. The result of the Euro crisis 2011 is not a new statutory for the European Central Bank, but again the emergence of new institutions like the ESF (European Stability Fund) or the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility). The European Union disintegrated visibly when member states without the Euro had to leave the conference hall so that members of the Eurozone could confer in private. Yes, a new institution to integrate these two zones seemed to be a good idea.
 
If the Euro should fail one day it will not do so because of the debt of some countries as. Debt can be settled. But the institutionalism of the European Union can hardly be tamed and will express even more what it does already now. The European Union is a matter of the mind and not of the heart of its people. In essence, they want to determine their fate primarily in the context of their nations embedded in something practical when it comes to the neighbors, which was once the European Economic Union. A united military, a real president of Europe, a common household is currently not only beyond imagination but also incompatible with national constitutions. Certainly the kings and queens in Europe do not want a new Emperor.
 
But as much as they haggle when it comes to the debt of neighbors, all bigger countries of the European Union face the problem of creating equal conditions of living for its citizens despite strong regional differences in productivity. They regularly resolve this problem by heart and not mind: West Germany transferred a staggering 1,000 bn Euro, five times more money than its share in the EFSF, into its formerly communist states after unification. However, even nowadays, more than twenty years later, this goal is not reached and many think it never will be; nevertheless, only a few complain. Equal conditions of living are not only expressed as a state goal in the German constitution, people also want them with their hearts. Help and support depends on something the European Union just does not and maybe cannot have: The heart of a European identity. Unfortunately.