Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Shame on Europe

   Even though I do strongly believe that the current financial instability is largely our fault, it is hard to believe the lack of leadership that, once again, is plaguing Europe. The current turmoil is partly our fault because our governments have not understood the unsustainable path that they have been undertaking (spending and increasing future expenditures as if there was no tomorrow, or, at least, as if we did not have to pay the bill sooner or later), and because our current government has behaved in a reckless and irresponsible way when all the symptoms that we could be facing this situation were all there at least since the end of 2009. What have our political leaders done? Instead of acting decisively trying to persuade the markets that we were in control of the situation, our political leaders decided to point fingers at the financial markets (bad, bad markets!), and to pretend that only the Greeks were at risk, not us. Instead of designing a credible plan that could be sold to our European partners and to the financial markets, we opted for a so-so plan that promised much, but did not deliver enough. Instead of focusing on our grave economic problems, our political leaders preferred to spend their time arguing about political scandals and the looming prospects of new elections. Simply regrettable. We might end up paying a very hefty price for this carelessness and for this irresponsibility. Let’s hope not. Let’s hope that today’s meeting between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition marks the start of a new beginning, in which we are able to design an improved plan that is able to convince the markets that we are committed to sounder public finances and more realistic economic policies.
   Having said that, it is also very clear that Europe has to be blamed for the current state of affairs. Europe leadership has been simply non-existent. Everyone relied on Germany for direction and leadership, but the Germans have provided no direction and much less leadership. It is either that or they really want us (and the Greeks) out of the euro, but are being too “polite” to say it. Maybe that’s why they have been dragging their feet for so long... Still, one thing is to try to punish Greece (and even Portugal) for the reckless behavior of the last few years, another is to linger for months without deciding what to do.
   However, if Germany’s wavering is difficult to explain, what can we say about Europe? The fact is that Europe has been too indecisive, too weak, too pathetic. Where are you, Mr. Barroso? Where are you, Mr. Rehn? Where are you, Mr. Trichet? Where is the so-often proclaimed European solidarity? Where is the Europe that aimed to become the most competitive region of the world?
   The sad truth is that Europe is, once again, behaving like a giant with feet of clay: only talk, no muscle; only indecisiveness, no clear direction. And thus I say with great regret: Shame on Europe. Or, at least, this Europe, an Europe that is increasingly killing the dreams of its founding fathers with its pitiable paralysis and inexplicable ineffectiveness.

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