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International (Deep End)

For a while it looked as if the Eurozone crisis would be a spur not an impediment to the European project of ‘ever closer union’. It was as opponents of the single currency had always warned: what starts off as a monetary union will become a fiscal and political union.

Except that, according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph, things haven’t worked out that way. In fact, the Eurozone hasn’t even achieved full monetary union:

“…the great leap forward has not happened. The German elections have changed nothing. There are no eurobonds, no debt redemption funds. The EMU banking union is eyewash. There is almost no sharing of real risk. Sovereign states are still on the hook if their banks go bust, leaving them prone to the same vicious circle that threatened EMU implosion in July 2012.”

It is important to distinguish between what ordinary European voters want and what their governing classes intend to do. The former, for all their anger, have continued to keep the latter in power. Thus the European project not only remains on track, but is set to accelerate in order to save the single currency.

That, at least, is the official line. However, behind the calm assurances, Euro-politicians are losing faith in the European project and a few are even willing to say so:

“Events are moving very fast in Europe, overtaking the debate in Britain. Advocates of the historic nation states – L’Europe des Patries – are gaining ground across the Continent. Superstate romantics are on the back foot almost everywhere. The Hegelians are hated.

“‘The time of an ‘ever closer union’ in every possible policy area is behind us,’ says the Dutch government. Its review of EU powers calls for swathes of policy, from social security to water management, to be left ‘more or less entirely to member states’.”

The other week, the Deep End featured a report on Germany’s increasingly Eurosceptic elites. It would seem, however, that it’s not just the Germans having a rethink. Evans-Pritchard quotes Francois Heisbourg, who is currently chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies:

“Prof Heisbourg, a pro-European, has since published La Fin du Rêve Européen (End of the European Dream) calling for the euro to be broken up to save the European Project. ‘The dream has become a nightmare. We must face the reality that the EU itself is now threatened by the euro,’ he said.

“He proposes an orderly return to national currencies – ‘putting the euro to sleep’…” 

Heisbourg cannot be dismissed as an anti-establishment troublemaker. He is a thoroughly house-trained Euro-intellectual with an impeccable pedigree. But does he seriously expect those in power to follow his advice? The end of the single currency would surely mean the end of the politicians who have staked so much on its continued survival.

Then again, this isn’t about the survival of individual politicians anymore – but of entire political parties:

“[In France] all signs are that the Socialist leadership is deeply alarmed by the prospect of a perma-slump under a fixed-exchange system that offers no hope of cutting unemployment. They know that the Socialist Party itself could be destroyed, going the way of Greece’s PASOK if it accepts its fate passively. Huw Pill from Goldman Sachs says France will have to endure a 40pc decline in relative living standards against Germany to rectify imbalances within EMU, a task that becomes much harder as the eurozone flirts with deflation. If he is right, I cannot see how Franco-German rupture can be avoided.”

We must hope that Europe’s rulers have prepared a plan for “putting the euro to sleep”. One fears, however, that the actual experience would be far from restful.

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55 comments for: The European project is finally facing its Waterloo

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