A week or so ago I had dinner with an Eastern European politician whose work brings her into daily contact with EU policy-makers. The conversation started to drift away from the Eurozone crisis and strayed into memories of the Soviet and Yugoslav collapses. Then she said: “Having already lived through the experience of where everything is forever until it is no more, I am starting to become extremely worried about the EU.”
No parallels are perfect – and any comparisons between the collapse of a democratising totalitarian socialist empire and the financially palpitating EU should not be taken as direct analogies. But maybe they open up new ways of looking at the problem of complex political systems in crisis. Drawing from the conversation I had that evening and my own thoughts here are ten lessons from perestroika for the would-be builders of fiscal union:
14th December 2011 at 01:12am
Your point 10 seems to imply that the whole EU is only a fair-weather job. I tend to agree. Due to the guild-trip of the germans earing off over time there is no easy handle any more to bludgeon them into paying for the fair-weather party of the others (even france has to - since reunification - make a real net contribution to the EU budget… before it was neglectible).
I assume this trend will grow stronger with the continuation of the crisis and it will make a huge jump forward should merkel fall and the EU win in saddling all debts on the german nation.
The rest of the EU nations are utterly unwilling to pay their fair share for the further existence of the union, they got over the decades accustomed to having only rights and no duties towards the paying countries at all. Their citicens will cry, scream and hurl abuse to the north for this to return. They dont understand that they too will have to finally make a contribution. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain… none of these countries have in all these years ever paid one single cent net into the EU coffers, they did nothing but draining it. How can the EU expect those people to understand that EU money comes from real working people who have to feed their family too? nobody ever told them in all those years.
All that was told to them was that “There will be money!” (Slogan of PASOK in their last election). And because they always thought that the money would just come from “somewhere” and they are entitled to it, that it is an enforcable right of them to take this money from their fellow europeans in the north… they will not bend. Unless the market pressure wears them down and they loose all hope in that the rest of the EU just takes over all their debt.
The question is… is merkel strong enough to force all those governments to explain this to their citizens? Can those citizens even grasp it?
As point 8 states, their leaders reacted slowly. Italy was utterly sure that in the end germany would introduce the eurobond and guarantee all italian debt just like that and then they could return to spending like cracy. Only by now did the italians figure that perhaps actually the germans could really not be impressed by the nazi rethoric any more and refuse to pay for the italians blunders. But is it too late already?
As for point 5… seeing in what bitter poverty the russians lived under soviet rule, comparing to the relative good life in the sister republics… I doubt germany wants this. Somehow I doubt that forcing the germans into poverty so that the french can life the fine life will make the EU loved in germany.
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