Monday, August 29, 2011

Mixed Feelings on Mid-Crisis EU

Behind the euro crisis is a crisis of confidence, felt differently but to similarly intense degrees throughout the Continent. 

Northern countries have been feeling taken advantage of, with the common refrain echoing a feeling that the southern EU countries have spent with abandon the considerable benefits received from their neighbors. But "the feeling is mutual," reports Global Post, and in the case of Spain, many feel they have exchanged cash for compromised protections of rights, crisis-time mismanagement, sacrifice of national sovereignty, and kowtowing by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero toward demanding eurocrats in Brussels. 

Nobel laureate Robert Mundell said on August 26, "I don't think the euro is on the verge of collapsing."

Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, said on August 24, "The euro is breaking down."

Eschewing with the "United States of Europe" idea, Romanian Mircea Cărtărescu favors a union centered around the "European mind" and a federation "not solely focused on the issue of economic survival." He says: 

"Present-day Europe relates to the United States as Athens once did to ancient Rome. And although at one point Athens sought to emulate Rome, I can see no reason why modern Europe should seek to emulate the United States."
German ex-foreign minister Joschka Fischer counters that "we need to work toward the United States of Europe now."

In Estonia, a slightly but definitely more optimistic note can be heard in the public opinion of the country's lot as it relates to the EU, again reported by Global Post. Says Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, 

“I remember the days when the counters of the shops in Tallinn were empty and the people were starving. The economy more or less had to be rebuilt from scratch... If you had asked people on Aug. 20, 1991 whether in 20 years “Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be seen as economic success stories in Europe, would be full members of NATO, full members of the European Union,” Bildt asked, “if anyone had said yes, that person would have been seen as a fairly likely candidate for lunacy.”
But such a public, party-line voice is bound to be tempered by ordinary citizens, in this case from Tallinn, the Estonian capital:

"Nineteen-year-old Katrina Ulbeerte, bopping along with her younger sister, laughs when asked what she knew about Soviet times before she was born. In American slang, she said her parents have told her that life then was difficult. “They told about special lessons about, like, communists and, like, all kinds of military stuff. I’m happy I don’t have to go work in a factory!”

"But 55-year-old Ieva Inauska, who couldn’t speak English but conveyed her thoughts quite clearly in broken German and hand gestures, doesn’t see much of a change. “Soviet Union? Bah. European Union? Bah. The European Union bureaucracy is even bigger than the Soviet Union’s!” And, she indicated, she preferred the latter."