The continent’s leaders managed to save both the monetary and political union. For now. But the lack of a long-range vision for the future leaves the European Union vulnerable to slow erosion.
PARIS - Recapitalization of the banks, debt forgiveness for a large part of the Greek debt, strengthening of the European banks and its ability to intervene in favor of financial stability. One by one, the three tools that are supposed to stop the unravelling of the euro zone are being put into place, and that is good.
But let's not fool ourselves. If Angela Merkel is right to tell the Bundestag that the "current generation" of European leaders "shouldn't fail history," then an accord regarding the tools in question will not resolve the basic question nagging the European Union: Do we still want to live together?
The paralyzing rule of unanimity has long shown that the response is not so obvious. In the last several years we have in fact seen signs that Europe has doubts about its single destiny: a weakening of the European executive, with a deliberate choice to put people in charge who are unlikely to push the member states; the inability of the European Commission to embody the "European Interests;" and the member states' repossession of European duties. This all leads in the same direction: a slow regression away from the European spirit and towards nationalization. This seems to dash hopes that the emergence of powerful economic rivals was supposed to reinforce the importance of a strong Europe.
The euro crisis arose against this backdrop barely two years ago. As enthusiasm for the European project lost steam after the first decade of the 21st century, and mistrust deepened among the Union's people (for example, the French and Dutch "no" votes on the European Constitution in 2005), the fear that the euro zone would fall apart created a needed wake-up call. In the heart of the Union's headquarters, all the taboos disappeared: sometimes in a positive way, like with the European Central Bank's decision to buy up public debt; more worryingly in other cases, such as the bankruptcy of a sovereign nation that reveals extreme weaknesses nestled in the banking system.
Despite the latest accord, the threat of chaos from the unpolished plans remains in the face of a revitalized role of the European Central Bank and the beginning of budgetary federalism with the creation of a European emergency fund.
But these advances, obtained reluctantly and too often sheltered from public opinion, do not add up to a plan for the future. There is a major risk that once the emergency has passed, the European Idea will once again fade. Still looming is the temptation of individual nations to withdraw from the Union. It must be fought with political courage and vision of the sort that rarely manifests itself in the current generation of European leaders.
Read the original article in French
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