PESSIMISM CONCERNING THE EUROPEAN PROJECT

On May 9, 2013, Presseurop published an English version of a contribution in the Munk Debate, Canada, by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson published by Milan’s Il Sole-24 Ore, Italy. Ferguson is pessimistic concerning the European project. Excerpts below:

I’m absolutely certain that Lord Mandelson and Daniel Cohn-Bendit will tell you that the European experiment has succeeded because there has been peace in Europe since it began in the 1950s…European integration has had absolutely nothing to do with peace in Europe since World War II; that has been the achievement of NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation]. The creation of the European Union was not about war and peace, otherwise there would have been a European Defence Community, and that was vetoed by the French National Assembly in 1954.

Europe has to be judged in economic terms, since its own terms have always been economic. And how did it do? In the 1950s the economy of integrated Europe grew at 4 per cent. In the 1960s, it was about the same. In the 1970s, growth was 2.8 per cent; in the 1980s, it slid to 2.1 per cent; in the 1990s, it was only 1.7 per cent: and so on, down to zero.

As European integration has proceeded, its growth has declined. The share of Europe in global GDP has fallen since 1980 from 31 per cent to just 19 per cent. Since 1980 the EU has grown faster than the United States in only nine out of 32 years. Never has its unemployment rate been lower than the US unemployment rate.

We warned them, ladies and gentlemen. We said, if you have a monetary union without labour market integration and without any fiscal federalism, it will blow up. I predicted that in 2000. It is happening in real time, in a chemistry lab, on the other side of the Atlantic.

But this was also a political experiment gone wrong. Do you know what that experiment was? The experiment was to see if Europeans could be forced into an even closer union — despite their wishes — by economic means because the political means failed.

Finally, the European experiment has been a geopolitical failure. The European Union was supposed to act as counterweight to the United States. Do you remember Jacques Poos’s 1991 “hour of Europe” speech announcing that Europe was going to solve the war in Bosnia [He actually said that after war broke out in Slovenia and Croatia]? Yes, that was supposed to be in 1991. But 100,000 people died in that war and 2.2m were displaced, and the conflict didn’t end until the United States finally stepped in and sorted out the mess.

Henry Kissinger famously asked, “Who do I call when I want to call Europe?” The answer came several years later: you call Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Nobody had ever heard of her, nor had they ever heard from her.

The same day Germany’s leading daily newspaper, Die Welt, published an interview with professor Ferguson on the European Union. Here Ferguson is somewhat more optimistic and he said that there is only one final station for the EU: United States of Europe.

”Die Endstation ist klar, eine Bundesrepublik Europa. Bei den politischen Eliten ist der Wille dafür vorhanden, und in der Bevölkerung gibt es in keinem Euro-Land wirklichen Widerstand dagegen. Wenn ich in Spanien frage “Warum bleibt ihr im Euro, auch wenn ihr eure Währung jetzt nicht mehr abwerten könnt?” – halten sich die Leute die Ohren zu. Davon wollen sie trotz der Arbeitslosigkeit und Sparzwänge nichts hören.”

“Was sind die nächsten Schritte?

Als erstes kommt die Bankenunion. Denn im Finanzsektor liegt am meisten im Argen. Die größte Gefahr sehe ich bei den Banken in Spanien. Derzeit garantiert der spanische Staat deren Solvenz. Doch angesichts der belasteten Staatsfinanzen in Madrid ist diese Garantie im Grunde nicht glaubwürdig.”

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