From the editor
September 28, 2012
After months or even years of stumbling around in the dark, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
The response to the financial crisis—which some see in terms of a crisis of confidence, others as the effect of populism and irresponsibility on the part of politicians, coupled with a carefree approach among the public, and still others as the result of the system’s poor functioning—was superficial: the symptoms of the crisis were treated instead of the underlying causes. Mountains of money were thrown at problems and some belt-tightening measures were introduced. It’s worth noting that Poland, a country of 38 million and struggling to overcome the development gap separating it from Western Europe, received 67 billion euros from the EU’s seven-year budget until 2013. Meanwhile, 10-million-strong Greece has been handed out 320 billion euros to keep it afloat.
There were no noticeable effects other than big social protests and government reshuffles. Ratings kept going down, government bonds kept going up and the crisis tsunami kept spreading to other countries.
It finally became clear that this bury-your-head-in-the-sand policy was doing no good, just increasing the costs. The “more of the same” principle proved futile and it became necessary to step up a gear.
This new gear comprises three strategic parts: the German constitutional tribunal’s decision allowing Berlin to join the stabilization fund, the European Central Bank’s decision to acquire the bonds of countries receiving EU assistance, and the establishment of a banking union in the eurozone. To this we need to add the victory of pro-European parties in the Dutch elections and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent decision to buy $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities a month to inject funds in the real estate market.
Is this truly a new, stepped-up engagement, or just buying time? For optimists, it’s both. A true breakthrough means a real breaking down of the barriers that keep us locked within our old ways of thinking. For now, these barriers have only cracked.
Who knows if the fear of the elites isn’t the strongest hindrance to stepping up their game. The name of the destination on the road called “European integration” is only being whispered in closed rooms, mostly fearfully. This isn’t just for tactical reasons, but also because broad integration remains in substantial conflict with the historical development and experience of those European countries which also today are witnessing distinctly decentralist tendencies.
Clearly a real crisis inclines people to look the truth in the face and show true courage. Searching for increased immunity to such crises and seeking to improve the EU’s chances of winning in the global competitiveness race, we need to turn to deeper integration. This has been said openly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Poland’s Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski before them; boldly but cautiously, and without setting a concrete deadline. It’s better than nothing.