Angela the lawgiver
A pact to cut budget deficits is achieved at the cost of a growing democratic deficit
The Economist Magazine – Feb 4th 2012 | from the print edition
THOU shalt not incur a structural deficit. Thou shalt pay down thy excessive debt. Thou shalt adopt a balanced-budget rule in thy constitution, and subject it to the European Court of Justice…
It took just a little more than 40 days and 40 nights for Angela Merkel to bring down the tablets of fiscal law. At a summit in Brussels this week, 25 European leaders pledged to observe this covenant and made burnt offerings of their economic sovereignty. But the children of Europe are crying into the wilderness: “How long, Lord, must we be tormented by austerity?”
In the third year of Europe’s debt crisis, leaders are under pressure from three sides: the bond markets, which threaten to push countries into insolvency; EU institutions, armed with new powers to monitor budgets and economic policies; and fellow leaders, who are no longer shy about meddling in neighbours’ affairs.
What about citizens? They are being given little say in the loss of national prerogatives. Surely democratic politics is nothing if not about how wealth is created and distributed. Yet the treaty was drafted to avoid referendums, above all in Ireland (although that may be tested by the courts).
Some suggest elected national governments are being crushed by an undemocratic Europe. That is facile. For several countries, the EU is a guarantee of democracy. Many would rather surrender sovereignty to a Europe, where they have influence, than to financial speculators. And in a monetary union, members surely have a right to speak up if others act recklessly. In the end, countries choose whether to join the EU, or even the euro.
Still, the EU is not like other international clubs. It intrudes deeply into the internal workings of its members. It would be hard, and extremely painful, to leave the euro. The EU’s decision-making is unintelligible to most people.
Comment by Jerry Mager / 2012 February 6th
The irony of this whole tragicomic conundrum is that it effectively works in the opposite direction as was meant by establishing the eurozone in the first place: to counterbalance the power and mitigate the looming domination of a re-united Germany. What we experience now is a Germany leading, cajoling, the other member countries to behave responsibly, that is to say the German way. Such for the sake of us all, of course. Though one might understand the reason behind such behaviour, that is not to say that one likes feeling the steering hand of this European super power. Allusions as to ‘G auleiter’ and the like may look and sound childish, but the puerility of expressions like these serve as an apposite metaphor for the inchoate state of mind of the constituent countries where Europe as a nation state is concerned. There still is a long way to go and these hassles are not helpful at all – to use a understatement.
The other victim indeed is democracy. It seems that the politicians are doing their utmost to rub it in that we have to put up with their incompetence – and their on the average meager qualities. We have no other choice, so they assure us. ‘We all’(!) must stomach the medicine. Well, they can make us obey for the time being. We even could comply for a while. But a united Europa of course does not grow organically nor will it function smoothly through obedience or compliance. Such a Europe needs the commitment of its citizens and that demands a fair amount of enthusiasm and inspiration. What is happening all the time now is the steady erosion of good will and the seeping away of trust of an ever growing number of citizens. No matter how many summits there still are in the offing. They do not impress us any longer, nor do they instil any hope. The only feeling that seems to thrive is calculating cynicism. A rather bleak prospect as for what the future holds in store and not at all conducive to the mood of: “alle Menschen werden Brüder.”
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