Sunday 03 Jul 2022 | 05:56 | SYDNEY
Sunday 03 Jul 2022 | 05:56 | SYDNEY

What ails Europe?

11 October 2012 09:14

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia, Singapore and Kuwait and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. 

Among the many presumptive villains in the present Euro crisis blame game, four culprits stand out: The Germans, The Southern Europeans, The Anglo-Saxons and The Founding Fathers of the European Union symbolised by Jacques Delors (the longest serving president of the EU) and Helmet Kohl (champion of the euro).

'The Germans' is historically convenient shorthand for the northern part of Europe, from Poland to France and Germany to Scandinavia. Despite electoral temptations from the nationalist right and, to a lesser degree syndicalist pressure from the left, a clear majority in these countries apparently still believes in and is ready to pay for a European future.

This is not the case in the southern European 'Club Med' countries. A recent trip to southern Italy revealed the ugly truth: that downtown Naples now lags behind, in almost all relevant quality of life indicators, downtown Kuala Lumpur. Individual citizens have to realise you cannot vote for, and then keep in power for years, an ignorant buffoon like Silvio Berlusconi without grave damage to the very fabric of society.

The Anglo-Saxons and their brand of capitalism are often singled out as particular villains in airy Gallic and Teutonic discourses on financial ethics. It is true that the arrogant and greedy Masters of the (financial) Universe of the 1990s were hatched and bred on Wall Street, and to a minor degree in the City of London, but they grew, prospered and cheated their clients just as much on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse and in the towers on Frankfurt's Main River.

The real problem with the Anglo-Saxons is the continuing refusal by Britain, the US and, regretfully, Australia, to acknowledge that Europe is changing as never before since it was conceived by the Treaty of Westphalia.

In the 21st century, individual European countries will only be able to deal on an equal basis with the heavyweights in other parts of the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific, if they are part of the European Union. Why this reality has not penetrated Britain's splendid isolation – notwithstanding a few visionaries such as Ted Heath, Roy Jenkins and Tony Blair – is still best documented in Tony Judt's epochal 2005 work Postwar where he showed that World War II led to radically different conclusions on each side of the Channel: away from nationalism on one side and back to English speaking roots on the other.

Those who point the finger at The Founding Fathers fail to see the big picture: the euro is just another, albeit important, economic marker on a politically signposted journey. This journey is arduous but still on track. As we can now start to see, the solution to the present crisis will be more Europe (European fiscal regulation, European armament industry, etc.), not less. 

Photo by Flickr user PlanetObserver.