In the end the result will be the same but the way we have to go in Europe will be different.
For sure in the near future we will see further steps of European integration due to the financial crisis we do experience at the moment. But how we will get there is pretty much decided by the national leaders gathered in the European Council representing the Heads of State and Government of the 27 EU member states. They run the show and they lead us through these exciting times. A lot of economic expertise is needed to tackle the problems lying on the table. This is the technical approach to the current European agenda. But there is also an emotional one meaning the question whether this crisis will do result in further European integration or even in re-nationalization or something in between.
The technical question is very important because if the decisions taken right now are the wrong ones it could do a huge damage to the whole construct of European integration. If the European leaders are not able to give so much positive influence to the development of the financial crisis that the outcome will be somehow passable for the European citizens the whole project may suffer deep loss of confidence. Of course no one has a crystal ball at hand and knows how the story will continue, how the markets will react and how the serious situation in the countries mainly involved will develop. You can argue against the financial aid package invented to solve the financial crisis in some of the European member states. Experts do advise to go other ways then the European Council is walking along right now. And sooner or later the result will be for example a haircut in Greece which was denied by the EC for months just to avoid to speak out the truth and upset markets and citizens. Maybe the national leaders were not able to foresee the vehemence of the problem and therefore thought we can solve this crisis just with money. That was a wrong conclusion. Purely money won’t do it this time. How this crisis well be solved or survived in the end from the technical point of view no one can really say at the moment. But it is very likely that at least Greece will have to reorganise its debt repayment to the harm of the credit grantors. We only can hope the the European Council will do the decisions that way that the path to normality will be as short and smooth as possible. The way of pumping more Euros into more aid packages (ESFS later ESM) will not prevail.
Even more important than how to tackle the financial crisis technically is the behaviour of the European leaders and their language to the general construction of the European Union. You can listen to interviews, parliament speeches and open newspaper throughout the political spectrum and find a lot of eurosceptical stuff. Everyone in Europe has the right to be for or against the European integration. We live in a democracy and everybody has the freedom to choose according to the individual preferences. But: My point is that those who paint the fear about a bigger and stronger European Union on the wall are totally wrong. They misinterpret the political prerequisites we need in our times. Re-nationalisation due to the bad experiences of the financial crisis is definitely the wrong answer.
Last week I heard from a representative of the European Commission, Willem Noe, that in his opinion sovereignty is a nice utopia but nothing more in a globalised world. I do support this approach as I think that the challenges of today need more and deeper cooperation. And even more: the nation state is not the vehicle to give the appropriate answers. Why do national leaders stress in theses circumstances the “power” of the nation state and warn from a bigger and more centralized and powerful Europe. Its not the question of loosing sovereignty but the way of gaining more power and be better prepared for coming duties. You could ask why national leaders still stick to their power instead of acting for the best output. One can think that it is obvious because they might loose power to shape the future. If you think in old terms of nation state based politics this might be right but politics in the 21st century are different and they will change even more in the next decades. This is especially for Europe very important as new centres of power are already emerging. Just to name the change from the Atlantic century (20th century) to the Pacific century (21st century) makes clear why we need to stay very close together in Europe not to speak of financial and economic interdependence. The nation state is dying. It is not the tool for the future to organises society and politics at least in Europe.
Maybe leaders do not see the importance of closer integration to prevail. If this is the case – good night! I can think of a lot of reasons why national leaders still act as they do and demonise closer European integration as the correct answer. A lot of these reasons are motivated by national politics and the chances of re-election. And I guess that many reason are based on individual psychology, narcissism and power-madness.
Where is the president, prime minister or chancellor who stands up and orates a rousing speech about Europe, the need of more integration and the clarification that Europe is for now the only way we have to go into a better future? Political leaders not only have to do practical policy and discuss new laws but they have also to give guidance to the citizens and build trust.
I am convinced that in the end more European integration will be the result but the way will be shaped by our political leaders. If they are wise and competent that way can be walked in great harmony or it can be very very stony.