Friday, February 19, 2016

Another sad step toward failure for the EU (Updated)

British Prime Minister David Cameron won concessions from the other EU members that loosens Britain's ties and commitment to the Union, concessions that make him willing to campaign for Britain staying in the Union in the referendum coming up in possibly in June. (Daniel Brössler und Alexander Mühlauer, Cameron setzt sich bei Brexit-Verhandlungen durch Süddeutsche Zeitung 20.02.2016)

I don't want to be so pessimistic as to say it's another nail in the coffin of the EU. The EU may well continue to exist for many years. But its one-time promise is dying. Or rather it was killed by failure of leadership by people like Cameron, Angela Merkel and François Hollande on major issues like the euro crisis and the years-long refugee crisis.

This week I've been reading a paper by Jürgen Habermas that he delivered in November 2007, "Europapolitik in der Sackgasse" ("Europe at an Impasse"), published in Philosophie und Politik/Philosophy Meets Politics 9:2008. He was pleading for continuing the process of increasing European integration, emphasizing how the EU could become a major force offsetting US cowboy foreign policy, and how it could serve as a model worldwide for regional cooperation.

It reads now like nostalgia, a fond remembrance of a hopeful path not taken, and now the chance is gone.

Today we have the grandees of the EU congratulating themselves that they have encouraged nationalism within the EU by caving to Britain's demands for special treatment and less integration with its partner nations.

The refugee crisis grinds on, with no decent solution in sight.

And there's this, from Wolfgang Münchau, Four signs another eurozone financial crisis is looming Financial Times 02/15/2016:
The rout in European financial markets last week was a wat­ershed event. What we witnessed was not necessarily the beginnings of a bear market in equities or an uncertain harbinger of a future recession. What we saw — at least here in Europe — is the return of the financial crisis.

Version 2.0 of the eurozone crisis may look less frightening than the original in some respects but it is worse in others. The bond yields are not quite as high as they were then. The eurozone now has a rescue umbrella in place. The banks have lower levels of leverage.

But the banking system has not been cleaned up, there are plenty of zombie lenders around and in contrast to 2010 we are in a deflationary environment. The European Central Bank has missed its inflation target for four years and is very likely to miss it for years to come.
He also observes:

Looking back, the cardinal error committed by the European authorities was the failure in 2008 to clean up their banking system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. This was the original sin. Many other mistakes subsequently compounded the problem: pro-cyclical fiscal austerity, the ECB’s multiple policy failures and the failure to create a proper banking union. It is interesting that every single one of these decisions was ultimately the result of pressure brought by German policymakers.
You're doing a heckuva job, Angela Merkel, a heckuva job!

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