Central Europe Activ

I have been always arguing that the great achievements of the Union, through the free movement of people and capital and the common internal market will create the need of strong common institutions.I believe that current euro-crisis sparked by Greece, and partly accelerated by the electioneering in tiny Slovakia shows that in fact we have a European shadow government, and it would need a great amount of sunbeam to become transparent.

A tiny and new eurozone member, which is regarded as ‘poor’ in European cohesion policy, a country that thought to increase its wealth buy joining a rich man’s club found itself that it has to find a few million euros to help an old member. (Slovakia had already lent money for IMF to contain the crisis, now it needs to give in money into the EU rescue fund).

The current Greek-Slovak match shows that the EU is not what it pretends to be.

On Monday Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico announced that his country would not consider providing rescue money to Greece unless the struggling country starts cutting its welfare spending,”We can’t give Greece any loan before we see them doing their homework,” Fico told reporters in Bratislava.Slovakia’s share in the loan will exceed 800 million euros, according to the country’s finance ministry.The eurozone, which Slovakia joined as the last member in 2009, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) endorsed on Sunday the bailout to save Greece from bankruptcy.

To be honest, I usually do not like what Mr Fico says and does, but he is usually rational, and this time he has a point. He is standing in front of a Slovak electorate that will vote on his government in the coming month. When he was elected, the promise was that a ‘poor’ country will be elevated on a development paths to the Western European level and instead it actually needs to contribute to a rescue fund that some Greeks still believe to be a WWII compensation plan. The war is over, and it would be just to criticize Mr Fico if he would face a European, not a Slovak electorate.

Year by year, us, Europeans share more gain and pain in the Union. We study abroad, carry home credit points, get an employment track record that needs to carry your reputation but also your pension scheme around. We enter into legal disputed behind borders that do not longer visible. Isn’t it a strong case for some form of shared institution and a common government?

I think that the greatest paradox in European politics is that while European people want more problems to be solved by public institutions than Americans, (most) Asians, or Africans, and their public institutions are perfectly internationalized, they reject the idea of a federal government and a common constitution. The European politicians, ready to serve both appearance and substance, do behave like a government and spend considerable time, CO2 and energy in getting together in various forms every single day; they let the Commission, the European Court and increasingly even the Parliament to create an almost common law-like constitutionality based on cases, but they do not create a Constitution.They prepare a mini-Treaty and elect a mini-president who is not visible from the other side of the Pond.

Last year we have learned, that although the EU members created a very strict entry rule to the eurozone (that most of the time they breach once they’re in, because there is no way out from the eurozone), the historical success of enlargement connects it with the non-eurozone members of the Union that they need to act together.During the boom years the eurozone banks exploited the Eastern non-euro members hunger for a better money, euro, and for credit to rebuild their private and public infrastructure. This created a large market for eurozone corporations, but also created a bond between East and West, euro-zone and shadow-euroland that needed to be resolved together. Although Lithuania was denied access with hypocrisy to the eurozone with better monetary record than most eurozone countries had at the time, it eventually turned out during the March 2009 emergency summit that the financial mess needs to be sorted out together, regardless of formal eurozone membership. The EU is more integrated than it is shown in the lawbooks.

Although the financial crisis is over, the crisis in the real economy still looms. Those countries that have a problem with their finances and economy are still suffering, and it looks that this cannot be contained at their invisible borders. After all, Europe has struggled to become one in the eye of the rest of world! The great founders of the eurozone, Germany and France led by example that you do not have to follow the Maastricht rule, the Greeks just realized that they can play this game with all-in. In 2010 it turned out that the Greek economy is so well connected to the rest of Europe that we cannot let it fail.

I think that on the 2010 Europe day it should be clearer than ever that we need a federal government in Europe. Such a government should be small, tolerant, and should focus on the economy, external relations and defense. The European nations must keep their cultural autonomy and the should cherish their thousand year old local institutions. But we should not stay in a state of denial forever: the EU has been created, it has its own life, and it needs a permanent government instead of jetting together national politicians every other day. I still believe that a house divided again itself cannot stand.

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  1. Thanks Erik Wesselius for linking to a recent Habermas interview, that among other things, supports the idea above about Greece.

    Does the recent Greek debt crisis doom that European project? “Greece’s debt crisis has had a welcome political side-effect,” says Habermas, snatching optimism from the jaws of defeat. “At one of its weakest moments, the European Union has been plunged into a discussion concerning the ­central problem of its future development.”

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