The King is dead

I have been hesitant to make any conclusions about what is going on in Europe right now. Predictions about the possible future are even harder. But I would like to share some of my thoughts about the challenging negotiations between Greece, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and explain why I think that they never will be over. As a European scholar, I am a chronic optimist. I always like to remind my students that the history of the EU has been shaped by crisis and reconciliation. Europe would not be what it is today without De Gaulle refusing to send his staff to meeting with his European partners in the 1960s, or the French and Irish NO to the Constitutional treaty ten years ago. Even after the entire European Commission stepped down following accusations of bribery in the 1990s, the EU was standing. Today these crisis seem small compared to Greek debt and austerity drama in Brussels but at the time all of these moments were interpreted as serious challenges to the European Union and its future. The EU always bounced back strong with the head of governments taking further steps towards a deeper political integration instead of dissolving. EU scholars call this the process of constitutionalization: not only the various treaties but also the political steps fueled by these crisis shape what the EU is today.  The EU is not only a peace project but also depends on conflict. This crisis however differs from the others in its intensity, global ramifications and political press. Its roots go farther than any of the conflicts before, the trust it damaged will leave deep marks on the Eurozone and the European Union as a whole. But, and this is an important but, the EU is still standing. The Eurozone is stronger than ever. The crisis brought its 19 member states  closer together again. Without the debt crisis a common banking system, close financial economic oversight and the debate on creating a common treasury would be unthinkable. Nobody would have thought that the de facto default of one Eurozone country could have so little impact on the stability of the Euro. And then there is Greece. The Greek negotiation challenge has taught Europe that a modern economy can fail and the Euro cannot rely on good political will only. This lesson will shape the EU forever and already have. A final, clear cut decision with Greece being in or out of the Euro will never come. Much more likely is a solution EU style: Working on more integration during a crisis and have its members decide to which extent they want to follow the lead. We already have so many different degrees of political integration in the European Union, the Greeks might simply opt for one more. How well this is put into political practice is another question and Germany plays an important role here. More on that in the next post. 

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Comments: 7
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