By Matt Williams:
The economic crisis in Europe has generated fears of a double-dip recession in the Eurozone. By many estimates, the continent is already seeing negative growth. Ana Palacio, Senior Fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, explained that more than austerity measures are necessary to resolve the crisis. Palacio draws her understanding of the crisis from serving as a member of the European Parliament and as well as the first female Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain. “What is the EU Crisis All About: Just Needing the Germans in the South?” (in reference to that nation’s comparative stability throughout the Great Recession), delivered to an audience of about sixty, offered insightful information and analysis about the crisis.
Ms. Palacio contended that the perils faced by Europe are much more than economic – they are, at their core, rooted in a much deeper political mindset held by European politicians. Indeed, she emphasized that the so-called technocratic governments in both Italy and Greece are both “exceptional in democratic terms because both governments are not the results of elections” and that “[Mario] Monti [DRD ‘68] is a full-fledged politician.” Ms. Palacio explained that three distinct problems now plague Europe – and that it must overcome them all in order to establish a new political mindset and ease the impact of the hard times on the horizon.
First, the decision-making apparatus that underwrites the union was designed for and remains to act in the realm of a Cold War mindset. It was created in a bipolar world, but the changing environment of today calls for increased flexibility and quick decision-making. Second, Europeans, both politicians and citizens alike, focus inward “with a sense of entitlement that meets pervasive skepticism” towards that which lies outside national borders. Finally, Europe cannot adjust to a world in which economic power and American attention have shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. During the Cold War, Europe was crucial to U.S. containment policy, but with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Asia, America has been shifting its focus to the Pacific for twenty years
Ultimately, Ms. Palacio contended that Europe has lost its sense of direction. This failure to plan ahead, alongside the other issues she described, created an environment in which European politicians are confused and afflicted with the inability to make any decision that might ward off financial and monetary woes. Moving forward, the continent must unhinge itself from laborious bureaucratic procedures and protocols that lead to numerous summits and speeches but few concrete actions. Its citizens must move past the crisis of a “lack of trust” and self-doubt in order to tackle the economic one.
Matt Williams is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.