Friday, 17 August 2012

The Political Consequences of EU crisis

"Man is characterized as the only animal who can learn from his mistakes and his unwillingness to do so." Thus said Mark Twain in the late 19th century.

Another Twain quote states that history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The fact is that we may observe many similarities between today and every other financial crisis in the European continent. For example, let's remember the period after WWI in Germany, specifically June 1921 until January 1924. For those of you too young to remember, this was the era when the German hyperinflation occurred. The German Mark was fixed to about 60marks per dollar in 1921 and rose to 8000 per dollar by the end of 1922. Over the next year: On 1st November 1923 1 pound of bread cost 3 billion, 1 pound of meat: 36 billion, 1 glass of beer: 4 billion. How did this occur? The insistence of French and British officials that Germany should pay war reparations and the inability of German economists to handle the situation well. (remember what I said about Economists and Real Life?)

Why the history lesson you may ask? Well, in the end of this crisis and while unemployment was still very high in Germany, a young ambitious politician took advantage of the situation, blaming the politicians in power, the Jewish community and the Allies for insisting in paying the reparations, gained large popularity, which resulted in him becoming Vice-Chancellor at first and Chancellor next. His name: Adolf Hitler. I think you all remember what happened next!

During a crisis many nationalistic, far-right movements gain popularity. Examples are plenty: the Golden Dawn in Greece, Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns party in Finland and Marine Le Pen in France. (I think I am forgetting someone, though...) Since the beginning of the EU crisis the above have seen the popularity of their political parties rise to unprecedented levels. In times of desperation, anxiety and turbulence, people always look for a scapegoat. It's always the others: the foreigners, the democratic-minded, the immigrants, other nations except their own, because in their minds they, as a country, cannot be wrong.

It would take many years before people begin to realize that a Union is a great idea. In fact, not until all old people are replaced with young minds should this change occur. In Europe we have 27 independent countries. The EU is just a notion now. It isn't something tangible for most people. We may see the meetings, the debates, the arguments, the politicians but we live in a single country, with most news stories coming from that country and many of us are ignorant of what happens at the EU level. What should be done is promote the idea that we are all in a big EU family.

Make people believe that the EU cares about their country. For example, Greece, Spain or Italy should not feel that they are the outcasts of the EU; they must believe that support will be given to them by the European Commission and they should not be afraid of the future as the EU will help all its children. Statements of the "we are not afraid of a Greek exit"-type should be avoided. They do not assist at all. 

I have said this before: We are modeled like the United States of America. We just call ourselves the EU. Think about it: if any state of the USA would be in trouble, would the US politicians remove it from the country? Their were cases like this in recent history if you think the example is far-fetched: New York State and California. They are not out of the US now are they?

Then why should we even consider to exit a country from the EU? To satisfy the whims of some politicians? Exit one country and the end of the Union will follow rapidly. A new age of nationalism will emerge, one which will not be a glorious one...

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