We can’t afford to let the Euro fail
A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of collapse. The Eurozone sovereign debt malaise could have been stopped in its tracks at numerous points through decisive and bold leadership. Yet, more akin to students with an essay crisis than the dons they are meant to be, Eurozone leaders kicked the can down the road, doing just enough to scrape by. This approach is no longer enough.
To slightly twist Marx’s famous phrase encapsulates the scale of the existential crisis currently facing the continent. With Italy and Spain, the 3rd and 4th largest Eurozone economies respectively, now bridled with the contamination of contagion, Europe is starting to approach the crossroads, with, in essence, two choices: dismemberment or greater union.
In reality, though, there is only one. However unpalatable closer union may seem, it is nothing compared to the consequences of breaking apart.
It’s often said it’d be fine if Greece pulled out. They’re small, and fuck their ‘fecklessness’; we only want their sunshine and souvlaki, anyway. But any exit from the Euro by any country, however small, would compound panic: would it mean a giant like Italy, at the very heart of Europe, could leave?
The other possibility, of Germany getting so pissed that it calls it a day and returns to its beloved Deutschmark, thereby losing the burden of countries that like chilling hard a little bit too much, is as worrying.
Exiting the Euro would entail exiting the EU, and an EU without Italy or Germany would threaten not only the existence of the European common market, but the last 66 years of European integration. Although predicting conflict may be a little bit Glen-Beckesque, we all know that European countries haven’t always been best friends. And however much we complain about Europe, a closed off continent is not what we want, even if it means we would see less ‘Malia 2k12 Ladz on Tour’ shirts next year.
Further, a catastrophic global double-dip recession and depression would occur, as Europe retracts itself from the world and confidence plummets.
Action must be taken, meaning more bailouts, of both countries and banks. It will also mean greater political union and a greater democratic deficit. It might be unpleasant – but the spectre of collapse is so much worse.
We should let the Euro collapse; it wouldn’t be as bad as we fear
Suggesting that greater European integration is a good idea at a time when Europe precipitously circles the plughole of irrelevancy is about as wise as recommending playing ‘sardines’ as an effective method of containing bird flu. Any novice ice-skater will be aware of the utter fallacy of the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ philosophy. The wheels of the Eurozone are starting to grind, and rather than liberally apply WD40 from a distance, it’s time to retire this monolithic vehicle and, in the words of Fleetwood Mac, ‘go your own way’.
While the papers scream their apocalyptic headlines with convulsive cries of ‘economic meltdown’, I am left wondering whether I should feel guilty for the plight of the Euro. Should I empty my rather underwhelming money box into an envelope and send my £3.46 to the ‘George Papandreou moustache maintenance fund’? As the debt crisis deepens, a – once razor sharp – moustache and a source of intense national pride now lies with an air of dishevelled inadequacy as a sad symbol of a nation plunged into economic dire straits.
The answer is no. Proximity is not reason enough to sustain a union. The Euro has become an unpleasant game of ‘pass the parcel’, with the final gift being yet more sovereign debt.
A spectre does haunt Europe, though. The slightly disturbing spectre of Angela Merkel charging forth on her pure white stallion of economic relief. The thunderous hooves are not quite enough to mask the cries of dissatisfaction from the German electorate but Merkel has an intriguing glint in her eye. She trails behind her a web of salvation, favours and the promise of indebtedness.
Dependency is not unity. Mutual suspicion of motives is not cooperation. In a world of international interdependency, Europe must begin to look outwards as a loose collection of disparate nations, rather than force ourselves into the uncomfortable arranged marriage of the Euro.
What would the terrible consequences of breaking apart be? Would ‘Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’ have to relocate to Margate? Would our supermarket shelves find themselves stripped of paella and pastitsio? Would Brendan from ‘Coach Trip’ suffer a mental breakdown, present himself with his own red card and stagger down to the nearest job centre?
The reality is that the consequences would quite probably be rather less than we imagine. The only foreseeable issue is that it would leave us rather hollow, with that favourite question of people, papers and politicians ringing in our ears: what shall we complain about next?
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