Must-read: Wolfgang Munchau: “The Errors Behind Europe’s Many Crises”

Must-Read: Wolfgang Munchau: The Errors Behind Europe’s Many Crises: “The EU was wrong to construct a single currency without a proper banking union…

…wrong to create a passport-free travel zone without a common border police force and immigration policy. [And] I would add EU enlargement… the haste with which it was pursued. The cardinal mistake of our time was the decision to muddle through the eurozone crisis. Europe’s political leadership failed to generate the public support for what was needed: creating a political and economic union. Instead, the European Council did the minimum necessary…. There are four channels through which that policy contributed to the broader instability….

First… the EU has the capacity only to deal with one big crisis at a time…. Second… the conflation, real or imaginary, of two more crises. The Greek economy continues to contract… refugees have been trapped in Greece… since Macedonia closed the border…. There are the fake connections. Poland has used last week’s Brussels bombings as a pretext for questioning a commitment to accept 7,000 refugees… an interaction between the terrorist attacks and the prospect of British exit…. Third… the output of several eurozone countries has yet to return to pre-crisis levels. Security… was among the areas most affected by austerity…. The widening income gap between rich and poor — and north and south….

Fourth… a generalised loss of trust and political capital…. Populist parties on the left and the right are exploiting the union’s failures…. The combination of these four channels frustrates perfectly good ideas for further projects aimed at European integration–those that would benefit everybody, such as central agencies to co-ordinate the fight against terrorism and to deal with the influx of refugees. If the EU had not messed up the previous crises, people would look at a European immigration policy or an antiterrorism task force with a more open mind. But would you trust with your own security somebody who cannot even contain a medium-sized financial crisis?…

Economic history has shown… that efforts to muddle through financial crises never work…. For the EU it was a catastrophic policy error… an economic depression… destroyed public confidence in the EU and in the very idea of European integration.

March 27, 2016


Brad DeLong
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