PREŞEDINTELE ANTONESCU – „Suntem aliat demn al NATO şi al Uniunii Europene, membru cu drepturi depline şi avem un parteneriat strategic de pe poziţii egale cu Statele Unite ale Americii.
Preşedintele României nu primeşte ordine de la nimeni
Numai Cetăţenii Români vor hotărî soarta României !
Regret că nu am posibilitatea de a fi alături de dumneavoastră în persoană astăzi, dar aș dori să-mi exprim îngrijorarea în legătură cu ceea ce se întâmplă în țara dumneavoastră și speranța că veți avea alegeri anticipate pentru a rezolva situația existentă.
Nu este posibil să continui când ai un președinte care face abuz de puterile sale constituționale, forțând trecerea legii sănătății prin parlament. Nu este posibil să continui când poporul și-a pierdut încrederea într-un guvern care a devenit leneș și, de asemenea, dă semnale că a devenit corupt. Sunt multe lucruri de făcut pentru a continua progresele pe care România le face de atâția ani în drumul său de a deveni o democrație europeană modernă.
Țara dumneavoastră a realizat multe, iar populația a făcut multe sacrificii pentru aceste realizări. Acestea nu pot fi irosite acum într-o perioadă de derivă a societății și lipsă de decizie. Exprimarea opiniei publice, atât de puternică pe cât a fost pe străzile Bucureștiului, precum și în alte părți, ar trebui să fie de ajuns pentru a transmite un mesaj președintelui și guvernului, că a sosit vremea ca ei să plece pentru a oferi țării noi alegeri și un nou început, iar eu voi face campanie pentru dumneavoastră, cât și cu dumneavoastră aici, la Bruxelles și la Strasbourg, pentru a realiza acest obiectiv.
Vă doresc tot succesul din lume pentru mitingul dumneavoastră de astăzi!”
Sir Graham Watson,
Președintele Partidului European Liberal Democrat și Reformist
Radiografia acad. Dinu C Giurescu asupra societatii romanesti
Baza industrială existentă în 1989 a dispărut. Numeric, cel puţin 80% din capacităţile de producţie au fost date la fier vechi. În Bucureşti existau în decembrie 1989 cel puţin 47 mari întreprinderi. Au dispărut complet 34
Tot efortul de industrializare al României din secolul XX a fost în cea mai mare parte anulat. O atare distrugere a industriei proprii este, după toate probabilităţile, unică în Europa dacă nu şi în lume. România nu mai are în proprietate nici o unitate industrială, cele în funcţie aparţin firmelor straine
Cooperaţia meşteşugărească de producţie a dispărut şi ea în cea mai mare parte. Dacă vrei să-ţi repari un pantof, găsirea unui atelier seamănă cu un joc la loterie.
Agricultura, prin măsurile luate în anii ’90, a revenit la o fărâmiţare care o fac neproductivă. România nu mai produce hrana de care are nevoie şi importă nu numai grâu, dar şi legume, fructe din ţări europene, africane şi chiar din America de Sud
Comerţul se desfăşoară în mall-uri cu megamagazine. Care este ponderea în megamagazine a mărfurilor produse în România? Imaginile cu înghesuiala cumpărătorilor de sărbători la casele de marcat nu înseamnă bunăstare
Comerţul exercitat individual-particular s-a redus la maximum; micile magazine de cartier unele rezistă, altele s-au închis, iar ponderea lor este prea puţin semnificativă.
Sistemul bancar-financiar aparţine, în proporţie de cel puţin 90% – băncilor străine
De ce până în 2009 inclusiv, au fost bani şi dintr-odată nu mai sunt? Opinia publică nu a primit o explicaţie raţională şi nici cum sunt folosite aceste 20 de miliarde
Urmările împrumutului: a) reducerea cu 25% a salariilor şi cu 15% a pensiilor
b) disponibilizări repetate în 2010, 2011 si 2012 c) reducerea în continuare a salariilor întrucât noua grilă de salarizare a pornit de la un prag mai jos decât acela anterior d) îngheţarea salariilor şi pensiilor pe 2012 e) hotărâri judecătoreşti definitive pentru plata unor drepturi băneşti nu sunt respectate şi amânate cu motivarea că nu sunt bani f) investitiile sunt îndreptate spre firmele clientelare ale regimului
FMI execută un control direct asupra bugetului şi administraţiei ţării. Acest for „recomandă“ ce trebuie privatizat sau pus sub management privat. Într-un fel, situaţia se aseamănă cu aceea a României din anii 1948-1958 când hotărârile conducerii de atunci erau supuse aprobării prealabile a Moscovei
Trecerea – tot la recomandarea FMI – sub management privat a unor mari unităţi care mai sunt proprietatea statului
Vânzarea în continuare a resurselor naturale, exploatarea perimetrelor maritime petrolifere; atacarea pădurilor virgine.Veniturile ce vor reveni statului român din vânzarea unor asemenea resurse sunt minimale
Conducerea politica,degradare fara precedent
Viaţa politică cunoaşte, în ultimii 6-7 ani, manifestări aparte, care încalcă atât Constituţia ţării, cât şi regulile UE
Formarea unei majorităţi parlamentare cu ajutorul unui „partid“ care nu a fost validat în alegeri şi votează automat cu partidul principal de guvernământ
Metode speciale de votare : asumarea răspunderii de către guvern; aprobarea tacită ; numărătoare în viteză (numărătoarea expres) ; ordonanţele de urgenţă aprobate în bloc
Politizarea aparatului de stat până la treptele inferioare. Se va ajunge la partidul-stat existent în 1989
Transformarea guvernului într-un simplu instrument de execuţie, de aplicare a dispoziţiilor Preşedinţiei
Eliminarea completă a dialogului dintre partide pentru obţinerea unei soluţii negociate; compromisul politic nu există în mentalul şi practica partidului principal de guvernământ; există numai dorinţa de eliminare cu orice preţ şi prin orice mijloace a adversarilor
Jaloane pentru fraudarea viitoarelor alegeri : votarea prin corespondenţă, tinerea concomitentă a viitoarelor alegeri, locale şi parlamentare, contrar prevederilor constituţionale, cât şi a practicii UE
Prin mai multe iniţiative legislative sau de facto din ultimii ani, guvernul se îndreaptă spre destrămarea teritorială şi juridică a statului român.
Atacarea teritoriului. Împărţirea Transilvaniei în două regiuni de dezvoltare pe linia despărţitoare trasată de dictatul de la Viena din august 1940. O atare propunere care deschide calea unei divizări de facto – economice şi etnice – a Transilvaniei. Ce mai rămâne din definiţia România stat naţional unitar şi indivizibil?
Integritatea teritorială este pusă direct sub semnul întrebării şi prin: proiectul de desfiinţare a judeţelor existente
Politica oficială (guvernamentală) faţă de comunele româneşti din judeţul Covasna este şi ea grăitoare: aceste localităţi – prin reprezentanţii lor – nu au primit nici un fel de sprijin bănesc de la guvern pentru activităţile lor culturale.
Alcătuirea statală este pusă la îndoială prin criticarea şi blamarea repetată a diferitelor categorii socio-profesionale: medici, judecători, profesori, poliţişti; prin referiri negative privind instituţii ale statului.
Legea arhivelor acum în faza de promulgare reprezintă încă o lovitură dată statului român. Legea îngăduie scoaterea unor arhive originale şi restituirea lor către emitenţi. Aplicarea unei asemenea legi înseamnă aprobarea legală pentru destrămarea arhivelor naţionale cu toate consecinţele previzibile
Reforma sănătăţii a dus la închiderea a zeci de unităţi, tot în numele economiilor bugetare. Faza a doua a acestei reforme preconizează acum limitarea asistenţei medicale la un pachet-tip
Codul muncii votat nu demult este net în defavoarea salariaţilor şi acordă angajatorilor mai multe înlesniri în desfacerea contractelor de muncă
Prin desfiinţarea industriei existente în 1989 în proporţie de cel puţin 80%, prin închiderea atelierelor meşteşugăreşti şi prin emigrarea a peste 2.000.000 de persoane,muncitorimea din România s-a redus considerabil şi numeric dar şi ca forţă de acţiune
Siguranţa personală a cetăţeanului şi a bunurilor sale este ameninţată de limitarile bugetare si concedierile masive in Politie si Jandarmerie
Îngheţarea salariilor şi a pensiilor pe de o parte şi creşterea preţurilor pe de altă parte, îngrădesc şi chiar opresc reacţiile corpului social preocupat zilnic de cum să facă faţă cheltuielilor de supravieţuire.
Măsurile luate sub lozinca „reformei instituţionale“ erodează pas cu pas statul român, slăbesc autoritatea instituţiilor sale. Cetăţeanul se simte astăzi mai expus presiunilor de tot felul şi mai nesigur de viitorul său şi al copiilor săi decât cu 6-7 ani în urmă
Atitudinea indiferentă a oficialităţilor faţă de tot ce aminteşte identitatea românească, tradiţiile, personalităţile reprezentative, istoria, limba vorbită astăzi tot mai stâlcită
Noua lege a educatiei favorizeaza formarea unei generatii fara identitate nationala
Criza europeana si sansa Romaniei – o viziune neoconservatoare
Razvan Timofciuc: „Europa liberală, la care părinţii fondatori visau, se transformă în Europa imperială, la care visau Hitler şi Joachim von Ribbentrop”.
„Europa Unita” este o utopie. Europa a fost din punct de vedere cultural si religios intotdeauna divizata. Incepand din 1054 Europa sa impartit in doua entitati, spatiul catolic-prostestant si spatiul bizantin. Ambele entitati cultural-religioase sau dezvoltat separat. Decalajele de dezvoltare, mentalitatiile diferite sunt vizibile, iar criza capitalismului neokeyniasan va duce la renationalizarea Uniunii Europene.
Motorul renationalizarii este produsul Sfantei Aliante Merkoziene. Cine vorbeste astazi de „Europa Unita”, vorbeste de fapt de interesele franco-germane camunflate in drapelul european.
Cine profita de „Europa Unita”? Holdingurile de stat franceze si capitalul german.
Renationalizarea europeana nu se va termina aici. Implozia monedei euro va duce la nasterea unor noi sfere economice si politice. Franta nu va renunta niciodata la Francul Francez (moneda care astazi se numeste Euro), iar Germania va reintroduce Noua Marca Germana si va forma alaturi de alte state europene, zona economica cu acelasi nume.
Schimbariile din spatiul cultural catolic-protestant vor afecta intregul continent.
Spatiul bizantin nu a avut niciodata ritmul de progres impus de Renastere si Iluminism. Elitele bizantine au preferat pasalicul otoman, cultura peschesului, baksishului, economia de taraba, si alte schmeckerii si improvizatii fanariote.
Capitalismul, monarhia parlamentara, republica prezidentiala si curentele politice moderne au fost rezultatul unor procese si revolutii politice dezvoltate si amplificate politic in Occidentul catolic-protestant.
Spatiul neobizantin nu a avut o asemenea evolutie. Cand la Paris se discuta in saloane luminate principiile doctrinare ale constitutionalismului, pe dealurile si campiile balcanice ciobanasul neobizantin fluiera liber-cugetator o doina.
Spatiul neobizantin sa afirmat ca entitate sociala in perioada decaderii Imperiului Otoman, Reformele institutionale au fost aplicate in urma unor matritze copiate ale unor modele occidentale. Sa nu uitam ca intreg spatiul bizantin a fost rezultatul unor razboaie regionale si ale unor conferinte de pace sustinute si parafate in Occident: Paris (1856), Berlin (1878), Versailles (1919), Trianon (1920).
Cand elitele neobizantine iluminate in Occident au apus, au aparut elite national-religioase care au impus modele politice autoritare. Bizantul urma sa fie ocupat mai intii de Germania nazista si ulterior a apartinut hegemonului sovietic. Din nou Bizantul a fost impartit si adjudecat in urma unor tratate si conventii internationale: Pactul Ribentropp-Molotow (1939), Conferinta de la Teheran (1943), Planul Morgenthau (1944). Prin Tratatele de la Jalta si Potsdam (1945) soarta Bizantului a fost pecetluita pentru cinci decenii.
Dupa 1989 Bizantul sa adaptat cu greu la normele culturale si institutional-politice catolic-protestante. Euforia „Europei Unite” a sfarsit in genocidul de la Srebenitza. Astazi Bizantul a ajuns o anexa costisitoare si complicata a Uniunii Europene.
Tarile balcanice catolice si protestante Slovenia si Croatia apartin UE. Bosnia si Kosovo sunt protectorate UE. Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Republica Moldova sunt tinute in anti-camera UE. Romania si Bulgaria, tari profund bizantine, sunt stigmatizate si tinute departe de catre pozitiile cheie ale institutelor europene.
Grecia, tara-mama al Bizantului, este supusa unui regim de guvernare care se aseamana unui directorat. Ceea ce vedem in acest moment este pe departe „Europa Unita”, ci un puzzle neterminat, un caleisdoscop ale contrastelor europene.
Cum va arata viitorul Uniunii Europene? Sansa Europei este sa ramina unita, dar totodata diversificata.
Cu siguranta un spatiu juridic comun ale tariilor membre UE este un proiect consensual.
Pe plan economic Uniunea Europeana se va diviza in patru sectoare: 1). flancul tarilor PIIGS, 2). zona economica Noua Marca Germana formata din Germania, Austria, Finlanda, Olanda, Luxemburg, 3). restul zonei Euro si 4) tariile membre UE care isi vor pastra moneda nationala.
In paralel cu sedimentarea si separarea economica, institutiile politice se vor reseta conform noi geometrii europene.
Secesiunea economica este insa si o sansa pentru Romania. Tara noastra, de jure integrata in UE, de facto neintegrata si tinuta departe de institutiile cheie, se poate afirma din punct de vedere economic alaturi de tari mediane precum Slovacia, Polonia si Suedia.
Politic, Romania este nevoita sa iasa din menghina institutionala franco-germana si sa se alature plutonului britanic. Marea Britanie poseda cel mai liberal sistem politic din Europa: monarhia parlamentara.
Inca din 1688 parlamentul britanic sa emancipat in fata regelui si conflictul institutional parlament-rege sa soldat cu detronarea regelui autoritar. In nicio tara europeana, separarea puterilor in stat nu este mai vizibila decat in sistemul parlamentar britanic. In Franta si Germania centrul de putere sa mutat in administratia prezidentiala, respectiv in cancelaria federala.
Criza europeana este insusi o sansa de dezvoltare si modernizare a Romaniei conform propriilor parametri culturali si politici. Probleme societatii romane pot fi solutionate numai de catre elitele romane. Suveranitatea nationala poate fi conservata numai alaturi de tari care doresc sa isi pastreze suveranitatea: Slovacia, Suedia, Polonia si Marea Britanie.
Everyone is wondering about the next disaster to befall Europe. Italy is one focus; Spain is also a possibility. But these crises are already under way. Instead, the next crisis will be political, not in the sense of what conventional politician is going to become prime minister, but in the deeper sense of whether Europe’s political elite can retain power, or whether new political forces are going to emerge that will completely reshape the European political landscape. If this happens, it will be by far the most important consequence of the European financial crisis.
Thus far we have seen some changes in personalities in the countries at the center of the crisis. In Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou stepped aside, while in Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi now has resigned. Though these resignations have represented a formal change of government, they have not represented a formal policy change. In fact, Papandreou and Berlusconi both stepped down on the condition that their respective governments adopt the austerity policies proposed during their respective tenures.
Europeanists dominate the coalitions that have replaced them. They come from the generation and class that are deeply intellectually and emotionally committed to the idea of Europe. For them, the European Union is not merely a useful tool for achieving national goals. Rather, it is an alternative to nationalism and the horrors that nationalism has brought to Europe. It is a vision of a single Continent drawn together in a common enterprise — prosperity — that abolishes the dangers of a European war, creates a cooperative economic project and, least discussed but not trivial, returns Europe to its rightful place at the heart of the international political system.
For the generation of leadership born just after World War II that came to political maturity in the last 20 years, the European project was an ideological given and an institutional reality. These leaders formed an international web of European leaders who for the most part all shared this vision. This leadership extended beyond the political sphere: Most European elites were committed to Europe (there were, of course, exceptions).
Greece and the Struggle of the European Elite
Now we are seeing this elite struggle to preserve its vision. When Papandreou called for a referendum on austerity, the European elite put tremendous pressure on him to abandon his initiative. Given the importance of the austerity agreements to the future of Greece, the idea of a referendum made perfect sense. A referendum would allow the Greek government to claim its actions enjoyed the support of the majority of the Greek people. Obviously, it is not clear that the Greeks would have approved the agreement.
Led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European elite did everything possible to prevent such an outcome. This included blocking the next tranche of bailout money and suspending all further bailout money until Greek politicians could commit to all previously negotiated austerity measures. European outrage at the idea of a Greek referendum makes perfect sense.
Coming under pressure from Greece and the European elite, Papandreou resigned and was replaced by a former vice president of the European Central Bank. Already abandoned by Papandreou, the idea of a referendum disappeared.
Two dimensions explain this outcome. The first was national. The common perception in the financial press is that Greece irresponsibly borrowed money to support extravagant social programs and then could not pay off the loans. But there also is validity to the Greek point of view. From this perspective, under financial pressure, the European Union was revealed as a mechanism for Germany to surge exports into developing EU countries via the union’s free trade system. Germany also used Brussels’ regulations and managed the euro such that Greece found itself in an impossible situation. Germany then called on Athens to impose austerity on the Greek people to save irresponsible financiers who, knowing perfectly well what Greece’s economic position was, were eager to lend money to the Greeks. Each version of events has some truth to it, but the debate ultimately was between the European and Greek elites. It was an internal dispute, and whether for Greece’s benefit or for the European financial system’s benefit, both sides were committed to finding a solution.
The second dimension had to do with the Greek public and the Greek and European elites. The Greek elite clearly benefited financially from the European Union. The Greek public, by contrast, had a mixed experience. Certainly, the 20 years of prosperity since the 1990s benefited many — but not all. Economic integration left the Greek economy wide open for other Europeans to enter, putting segments of the Greek economy at a terrific disadvantage. European competitors overwhelmed workers in many industries along with small-business owners in particular. So there always was an argument in Greece for opposing the European Union. The stark choice posed by the current situation strengthened this argument, namely, who would bear the burden of the European system’s dysfunction in Greece? In other words, assuming the European Union was to be saved, who would absorb the cost? The bailouts promised by Germany on behalf of Europe would allow the Greeks to stabilize their financial system and repay at least some of their loans to Europe. This would leave the Greek elite generally intact. The price to Greece would be austerity, but the Greek elite would not pay that price. Members of the broader public — who would lose jobs, pensions, salaries and careers — would.
Essentially, the first question was whether Greece as a nation would deliberately default on its debts — as many corporations do — and force a restructuring on its terms regardless of what the European financial system needed, or whether it would seek to accommodate the European system. The second was whether it would structure an accommodation in Europe such that the burden would not fall on the public but on the Greek elite.
The Greek government chose to seek accommodation with European needs and to allow the major impact of austerity to fall on the public as a consequence of the elite’s interests in Europe — now deep and abiding — and the ideology of Europeanism. Since by its very nature the burden of austerity would fall on the public, it was vital a referendum not be held. Even so, the Greeks undoubtedly would seek to evade the harshest dimensions of austerity. That is the social contract in Greece: The Greeks would promise the Europeans what they wanted, but they would protect the public via duplicity. While that approach might work in Greece, it cannot work in a country like Italy, whose exposure is too large to hide via duplicity. Similarly, duplicity cannot be the ultimate solution to the European crisis.
The Real European Crisis
And here we come to the real European crisis. Given the nature of the crisis, which we have seen play out in Greece, the European elite can save the European concept and their own interests only by transferring the cost to the broader public, and not simply among debtors. Creditors like Germany, too, must absorb the cost and distribute it to the public. German banks simply cannot manage to absorb the losses. Like the French, they will have to be recapitalized, meaning the cost will fall to the public.
Europe was not supposed to work this way. Like Immanuel Kant’s notion of a “Perpetual Peace,” the European Union promised eternal prosperity. That plus preventing war were Europe’s great promises; there was no moral project beyond these. Failure to deliver on either promise undermines the European project’s legitimacy. If the price of retaining Europe is a massive decline in Europeans’ standard of living, then the argument for retaining the European Union is weakened.
As important, if Europe is perceived as failing because the European elite failed, and the European elite is perceived as defending the European idea as a means of preserving its own interests and position, then the public’s commitment to the European idea — never as robust as the elite’s commitment — is put in doubt. The belief in Europe that the crisis can be managed within current EU structures has been widespread. The Germans, however, have floated a proposal that would give creditors in Europe — i.e., the Germans — the power to oversee debtors’ economic decisions. This would undermine sovereignty dramatically. Losing sovereignty for greater prosperity would work in Europe. Losing it to pay back the debts of Europe’s banks is a much harder sell.
The Immigrant Factor and Upcoming Elections
All of this comes at a time of anti-immigrant, particularly anti-Muslim, feeling among the European public. In some countries, anger increasingly has been directed at the European Union and its borders policies — and at European countries’ respective national and international elites, who have used immigration to fuel the economy while creating both economic and cultural tensions in the native population. Thus, immigration has become linked to general perceptions of the European Union, opening both a fundamental economic and cultural divide between European elites and the public.
Racial and ethnic tensions combined with economic austerity and a sense of betrayal toward the elite creates an explosive mixture. Europe experienced this during the inter-war period, though this is not a purely European phenomenon. Disappointment in one’s personal life combined with a feeling of cultural disenfranchisement by outsiders and the sense that the elite is neither honest, nor competent nor committed to the well-being of its own public tends to generate major political reactions anywhere in the world.
Europe has avoided an explosion thus far. But the warning signs are there. Anti-European and anti-immigrant factions existed even during the period when the European Union was functioning, with far-right parties polling up to 16 percent in France. It is not clear that the current crisis has strengthened these elements, but how much this crisis will cost the European public and the absence of miraculous solutions also have not yet become clear. As Italy confronts its crisis, the cost — and the inevitably of the cost — will become clearer.
A large number of elections are scheduled or expected in Europe in 2012 and 2013, including a French presidential election in 2012 and German parliamentary elections in 2013. At the moment, these appear set to be contests between the conventional parties that have dominated Europe since World War II in the West and since 1989 in the East. In general, these are the parties of the elite, all more or less buying into Europe. But anti-European factions have emerged within some of these parties, and as sentiment builds, new parties may form and anti-European factions within existing parties may grow. A crisis of this magnitude cannot happen without Tea Party- and Occupy Wall Street-type factions emerging. In Europe, however — where in addition to economics the crisis is about race, sovereignty, national self-determination and the moral foundations of the European Union — these elements will be broader and more intense.
Populist sentiment coupled with racial and cultural concerns is the classic foundation for right-wing nationalist parties. The European left in general is part of the pro-European elite. Apart from small fragments, very little of the left hasn’t bought into Europe. It is the right that has earned a meaningful following by warning about Europe over the past 20 years. It thus would seem reasonable to expect that these factions will become much stronger as the price of the crisis — and who is going to bear it — becomes apparent.
The real question, therefore, is not how the financial crisis works out. It is whether the European project will survive. And that depends on whether the European elite can retain its legitimacy. That legitimacy is not gone by any means, but it is in the process of being tested like never before, and it is difficult to see how the elite retains it. The polls don’t show the trend yet because the magnitude of the impact on individual lives has not manifested itself in most of Europe. When it does show itself, there will be a massive recalculation regarding the worth and standing of the European elite. There will be calls for revenge, and vows of never allowing such a thing to recur.
Regardless of whether the next immediate European crisis is focused on Spain or Italy, it follows that by mid-decade, Europe’s political landscape will have shifted dramatically, with new parties, personalities and values emerging. The United States shares much of this trend, but its institutions are not newly invented. Old and not working creates problems; new and not working is dangerous. Why the United States will take a different path is a subject for another time. Suffice it to say that the magnitude of Europe’s problems goes well beyond finance.
The European crisis is one of sovereignty, cultural identity and the legitimacy of the elite. The financial crisis has several outcomes, all bad. Regardless of which is chosen, the impact on the political system will be dramatic.
Mitingul din 8 noiembrie 1945, organizat cu prilejul aniversării onomasticii Maiestăţii Sale Regele Mihai I. Deşi guvernul lui Petru Groza, instalat violent la 6 martie 1945, continua să funcţioneze, artificial, alimentat din fotoliile „roşii“ de la Moscova, românii încă nu voiau să se predea utopiei bolşevice.
Încă nu era clar, dar România liberă se pregătea să intre într-o lungă hibernare, iar democraţia devenea o simplă umbrelă pentru deciziile luate la Kremlin. Un singur exemplu: era prima dată când un premier refuza să demisioneze atunci când Regele i-o cerea. Încă nu puteau accepta românii că ţara lor e condamnată să fie transformată într-o anexă sovietică, dar comuniştii retuşau orice fisură apărea în regimul care avea să devină atât de ermetic.
Cu entuziasmul şi fermitatea unor viitori politicieni, studenţii liberali şi ţărănişti au organizat, la 8 noiembrie 1945, în faţa Palatului Regal din Capitală, prima manifestaţie promonarhică, deci antiguvernamentală, de amploare – începutul rezistenţei anticomuniste a poporului român. Un episod însângerat al confruntărilor dintre comunişti şi „Opoziţia” fidelă Regelui Mihai I. 25.000 de oameni, majoritatea bucureşteni, au participat la miting: şi studenţi, şi pensionari, şi muncitori, şi intelectuali, toţi – conduşi de aceeaşi credinţă că nu-şi vor vinde ţara. Concomitent, în municipii precum Cluj, Sibiu, Braşov, Ploieşti, Giurgiu, Galaţi, Iaşi, Constanţa şi Timişoara au fost organizate acţiuni similare. În Capitală însă, manifestaţia a fost înăbuşită brutal, în stilul tradiţional comunist, cu bâte, gloanţe şi alte astfel de metode „minereşti”, cunoscute în detaliu şi de românii anilor ’90.
Dosarul „Afacerea 8 noiembrie” din arhivele Siguranţei conţine un rezumat de 68 de pagini şi mii de file scrise de securiştii zeloşi despre cei mai vocali participanţi şi despre cei reţinuţi. Printre arestaţi se numără liberalul Radu Câmpeanu, pe atunci, preşedintele Tineretului Universitar Liberal şi unul dintre organizatorii mitingului, şi liberalul Dinu Zamfirescu, elev la Liceul „Spiru Haret” în acea perioadă.
Guvernul decisese, la 24 octombrie, că ziua de naştere a Regelui Mihai (n.r. – 25 octombrie) poate fi sărbătorită abia la 8 noiembrie, odată cu onomastica sa, pentru a comprima cele două festivităţi în numele monarhiei. Mai mult, pentru a înăbuşi din faşă orice fel de manifestare, în noaptea de 24/25 octombrie au fost arestaţi mai mulţi ţărănişti şi liberali din Capitală. Reprezentanţii partidelor istorice nutreau însă alt plan: trebuia, cu orice preţ, să arate Occidentului că românii vor să fie liberi! Se ştia că soarta României este rânduită la Moscova, deci era vital să fie transmis un mesaj puternic… În plus, preşedintele american Harry Truman îl trimisese, în România şi Bulgaria, pe ziaristul Mark Ethridge, pentru a-l informa în legătură cu situaţia politică şi economică din cele două state. Prilejul perfect – Ziua Regelui.
Astfel, ideea mitingului promonarhic a venit firesc, în şedinţa Biroului Politic al PNŢ din 25 octombrie. „Nu este demn de un partid ca PNŢ să folosească prilejul onomasticii Regelui, adică să se ascundă sub hlamida regală pentru a ţine o întrunire. Să nu convocăm nicio întrunire, ci să lăsăm pe prietenii noştri şi să-i îndemnăm ca, dacă se face o demonstraţie cetăţenească pentru MS Regele Mihai, să participe şi membrii partidului”, spunea Ion Mihalache. „Manifestaţia să rămână exclusiv populară şi naţională”, îl completa şi Iuliu Maniu. Liderii ţărănişti au decis astfel, alături de preşedintele liberalilor, Constantin (Dinu) I.C. Brătianu, ca cele două partide să lase populaţia să manifeste pentru Rege, dar să-i susţină, ca simpli cetăţeni. Degeaba tuna şi fulgera ministrul de Externe Ana Pauker că „unii de peste mări şi ţări s-au obişnuit ca numai alde Maniu şi Brătianu să conducă ţara noastră, or orice învăţ are şi dezvăţ”.
„Jos Groza bumbăcit!”
Tineretul celor două partide a început astfel să pregătească ceea ce urma să devină cea mai mare demonstraţie promonarhică din România aproape comunistă. Chiar din primele zile ale lunii noiembrie, au început să tipărească şi să răspândească manifeste, chemându-i pe bucureşteni să-şi declare dragostea pentru Rege şi democraţie.
„Români! Veniţi în ziua de 8 noiembrie, orele 10.00 a.m. pentru a vă manifesta dragostea pentru suveran! Trăiască M.S. Regele!”, scria pe unele manifeste. „Vă cheamă Maniu. Vă cheamă Brătianu. Vă cheamă conştinţa românească. Trăiască Regele! Jos Groza bumbăcit!”, proclamau altele.
Singurul ziar care a avut îndrăzneala de a susţine manifestaţia a fost „Ardealul”, publicaţie de orientare naţional-ţărănistă. În ciuda presiunilor, directorul Anton Mureşanu a publicat pe prima pagina a ziarului din 7 noiembrie acest anunţ: „Toată suflarea românească va fi prezentă în ziua de 8 noiembrie a.c., orele 10 – 1, înainte de masă, în Piaţa Palatului, pentru a-şi manifesta dragostea, devotamentul şi neclintita încredere faţă de iubitul nostru Rege Mihai I. Nu vom lipsi la această mare sărbătoare a poporului românesc. Ţara şi Regele sunt singurele realităţi ale existenţei şi afirmării neamului Românesc!” Mai mult, în seara anterioară, bucureştenii erau sunaţi la telefon şi o voce necunoscută le spunea: „Dacă eşti român, mâine la 10 să fii în Piaţa Palatului”.
„Vreţi şi viaţa noastră?”
„Nu v-aţi îmbogăţit îndeajus, domnilor comunişti, ce mai voiţi de la noi? Cu un an în urmă, casa partidului vostru nu avea ca fond de propagandă nici o sută de lei, iar astăzi are sute de milioane, nu vă este destul? Vreţi şi viaţa noastră?”, scria, în jurnalul său, Constantin Rădulescu Motru, la o zi după manifestaţia din 8 noiembrie. „Toate declaraţiile lui Molotov (n.r. – ministrul rus de Externe) că va respecta suveranitatea statului român au fost simple viclenii”, continua marele academician la 13 noiembrie.
„Era un entuziasm extraordinar. E foarte greu pentru cei de astăzi să înţeleagă. Numai determinarea aceasta a permis să treci peste riscurile evidente. Dar ne sărutau cucoanele!”
participant la miting
Începutul măreţ al manifestaţiei de la 8 noiembrie a fost consemnat şi în rapoartele poliţiei – atât de impunător a fost încât nici măcar cenzura nu a găsit o variantă de compromis. Începând cu ora 9.00, în Piaţa Palatului Regal îşi făcea apariţia un grup de peste 30 de invalizi de război, împingând cărucioarele către statuia Regelui Carol I, amplasată chiar în faţa palatului. Veneau de la Căminul invalizilor şi agitau drapele, ovaţionându-o pe Maiestatea Sa! În câteva minute, grupurile de elevi şi studenţi care erau răspândite în jur au alergat către seniori. „Trăiască Regele!” şi „Regele şi Patria!”, strigau toţi, iar manifestanţii începeau să nu se mai teamă de nimic.
Această mărturie din raportul unui agent de securitate, rămasă în Arhivele Prefecturii Poliţiei Capitalei, este emblematică: „A apărut un invalid care în fugă s-a aruncat pe treptele statuii, în mijlocul grupului de invalizi, înconjuraţi de manifestanţi, şi a desfăşurat un steag tricolor mare, în uralele publicului care manifesta pentru Rege”.
Liberalul Radu Câmpeanu, unul dintre organizatorii mitingului, care avea pe atunci doar 23 ani, recompune atmosfera studenţească plină de entuziasm de la primele ore ale dimineţii şi descrie solidaritatea bucureştenilor, care s-au raliat necondiţionat manifestanţilor. „Am hotărât să ne adunăm mai întâi la sediul partidului de pe strada Maria Rosetti, alături de alţi tineri care voiau să ni se alăture. Au venit în jur de 1.000 de persoane străine la sediu, iar studenţii liberali erau grupaţi în parcul din spate, într-o grădină mare”.
Radu Câmpeanu le-a vorbit celor prezenţi şi, înflăcăraţi de discursul pasional, dar şi de ordinul lui Teohari Georgescu de a interzice manifestaţia, studenţii au plecat către Palatul Regal. „Ne-am organizat pe o coloană, cu 15 oameni pe rând. Ne mai bătuserăm cu comuniştii de mai multe ori, aşa că ştiam să ne protejăm – luasem nişte steaguri, cu o bară mică de lemn. Ne-am luat de braţe cu toţii şi, ţinându-ne strâns, am plecat spre bulevard”, îşi aminteşte liberalul.
„Erau cucoane care se dădeau jos din tramvaie, coborau din blocuri, voiau să ne sărute, să ne îmbrăţişeze, Doamne!, ce entuziasm! Ne sărutau cucoanele! Când am ajuns în faţa Societăţii de telefoane, toate funcţionarele au coborât, aşa îmbrăcate în bluzele lor verzui. Toate au venit, domnule, toate! Ca să-ţi dai seama cât de mare se făcuse coloana, îţi mărturisesc că, în timp ce prima linie era la Cercul Militar, ultima ajungea la Cinematograful Scala!”, rememorează Radu Câmpeanu. Peste 10.000 de persoane au ajuns, cu grupul de liberali, în Piaţa Palatului. Chiar şi Garda Palatului s-a s-a alăturat manifestanţilor!
N-a durat mult entuziasmul tinerilor, liberali, ţărănişti sau, pur şi simplu, monarhişti, deci anticomunişti. Forţele de ordine au început arestările, iar de la distanţă (din sediul Ministerului de Interne) chiar se trăgea! Erau acolo detaşamente armate din divizia „Tudor Vladimirescu”. Radu Câmpeanu a ajuns şi el într-o celulă de la subsolul „Internelor”.
Liberalul Dinu Zamfirescu era, în vremea aceea, elev la Liceul „Spiru Haret”, din Capitală – coleg de clasă cu fostul preşedinte Ion Iliescu. Despre momentele tensionate ale mitingului îşi aminteşte perfect! „Am hotărât că nu vom merge la şcoală, deşi 8 noiembrie fusese declarată zi lucrătoare. La 7 dimineaţa, eu am fost însă la liceu, dar cu un lanţ şi cu un lacăt, pentru a lega poarta. Să nu intre nimeni!”, povesteşte liberalul de mai târziu. Deşi, pe atunci, nu era membru de partid, deşi era apropiat liberalilor, elevul Dinu din a XI-a s-a alăturat unui grup restrâns de ţărănişti pentru a ajunge în Piaţa Palatului. Studenţii PNŢ se organizau în echipe reduse, în diferite zone ale Capitalei, urmând să se unească abia în faţa Palatului Regal.
„Chiar când am intrat pe strada Ştirbei Vodă, să merg la întâlnire, m-a abordat un bărbat pe ruseşte: «Cât este ceasul?» I-am tras o înjurătură şi l-am întrebat: «Ai uitat să vorbeşti româneşte?». După ce am ajuns la statuia lui Carol I, am început să strigăm, cu cei prezenţi acolo, «Regele şi Patria», «Libertate şi dreptate», sau chiar «Anglia şi America». Nu erau lozinci ostile, şi nici noi nu eram. Manifestam paşnic.” La ora 10.00 însă au apărut primele forţe de represiune, camuflate în muncitori fideli guvernării: un şir de camioane au apărut dinspre Athenée Palace, purtând insigna CGM – Confederaţia Generală a Muncii, sindicat condus de Gheorghe Apostol.
„Au început să coboare oameni din camioanele astea şi, când noi strigam «Regele şi Patria», ei strigau «Groza şi poporul», iar când strigam noi «Regele», ei făceau semn la gât, că ne taie capul. Camioanele astea au început să dea ocol statuii, în formaţie, şi să ne strângă cât mai mult. Ne-am căţărat pe soclu să nu ne lovească! Nişte tineri, mai enervaţi, au blocat unul dintre camioanele astea şi l-au răsturnat. Săreau muncitorii din camion ca puricii, aşa săreau!”, ne povesteşte Dinu Zamfirescu.
N-a durat mult nici entuziasmul său, pentru că imediat a fost arestat: „În această învălmăşeală, un tip, mai solid, m-a luat de gât, pe sus m-a luat şi m-a pus în spatele cordonului format de forţele de represiune. M-a arestat şi m-a dus la Prefectura de Poliţie, într-un beci foarte întunecos. Am fost dus apoi într-un subsol de la Academia Militară şi apoi la Jilava. O lună am stat în arest, până la 12 decembrie”. După ce a fost eliberat, Dinu Zamfirescu s-a dus direct la sediul Partidului Liberal şi a semnat adeziunea. „S-a creat prima organizaţie de elevi din cadrul unui partid politic din România – Organizaţia Colegială a Elevilor, aşa se numea”. Nu ştia atunci că, de fapt, îşi semnase încă patru condamnări la închisoare.
„Regele era un simbol pentru noi şi consideram că e o garanţie pentru salvarea României de comunişti.”
participant la miting
Mare panică au creat, printre comunişti, manifestaţiile promonarhice şi antiguvernamentale de la 8 noiembrie, iar asta se putea simţi în fiecare şedinţă sau întrunire ulterioară a Guvernului, a Partidului Comunist, a Frontului Naţional Democrat sau a Frontului Unic Muncitoresc. Mult timp a fost dezbătută „încercarea principalelor partide de răsturnare a regimului de concentrare democratică”, iar politrucii moscoviţi aruncau vina de la unul la altul.
La 9 noiembrie 1945, în şedinţa Frontului Unic Muncitoresc, Ion Burcă, reprezentantul PSD în guvern, avea pe buze soluţia perfectă: „Omoram 1.000 de oameni, dar făceam ordine. Nu trebuia să lăsăm aceste haimanele să bâţâie pe acolo. Când au văzut o forţă, o atitudine hotărâtă, s-au împrăştiat. Eu constat că Teohari (n.r. – Teohari Georgescu, ministru de Interne) s-a lăsat surprins, nu a reacţionat la timp”.
„Victimele fasciştilor manişti şi brătienişti“, comemorate ipocrit de manifestanţii comunişti Foto: fototeca online a comunismului românesc
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, cu alura sa de viitor şef de stat, vorbea voalat, în şedinţa din 10 noiembrie 1945 a Frontului Naţional Democrat, despre represiunea asupra participanţilor la miting, dar avea şi revelaţia politicii viitoare de partid. „Trebuie lucrat fără milă, să plângă cât vor, poporul trebuie să trăiască, ţara trebuie să trăiască. Dacă nu lucrăm cu sânge-rece şi dârzenie, se va râde de noi. Desigur, ruşii au destul forţe ca să-i facă chisăliţă, dar aceasta nu e de dorit şi putem evita”. Apoi, adăuga că, în urma zilei de 8 noiembrie, „ne-am trezit la realitate” – o metaforă încriptată pentru începutul campaniei represive împotriva adversarilor politic
Europe faces a banking crisis it has not wanted to admit even exists.
The formal authority on financial stability, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde, made her institution’s opinion on European banking known back in August when she prompted the European Union to engage in an immediate 200 billion-euro bank recapitalization effort. The response was broad-based derision from Europeans at the local, national and EU bureaucratic levels. The vehemence directed at Lagarde was particularly notable as Lagarde is certainly in a position to know what she was talking about: Until July 5, her title was not IMF chief, but French finance minister. She has seen the books, and the books are bad. Due to European inaction, the IMF on Oct. 18 raised its estimate for recapitalization needs from 200 billion euros to 300 billion euros ($274 billion to $410 billion).
Sovereign Debt: The Expected Problem
The collapse in early October of Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, a large Northern European institution whose demise necessitated a state rescue, shattered European confidence. Now, Europeans are discussing their banking sector. A meeting of eurozone ministers Oct. 21 is largely dedicated to the topic, as is the Oct. 23 summit of EU heads of government. Yet European governments continue to consider the banking sector largely only within the context of the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
This is exemplified in Europeans’ handling of the Greek situation. The primary reason Greece has not defaulted on its nearly 400-billion euro sovereign debt is that the rest of the eurozone is not forcing Greece to fully implement its agreed-upon austerity measures. Withholding bailout funds as punishment would trigger an immediate default and a cascade of disastrous effects across Europe. Loudly condemning Greek inaction while still slipping Athens bailout checks keeps that aspect of Europe’s crisis in a holding pattern. In the European mind — especially the Northern European mind — a handful of small countries that made poor decisions are responsible for the European debt crisis, and while the ensuing crisis may spread to the banks as a consequence, the banks themselves would be fine if only the sovereigns could get their acts together.
This is an incorrect assumption. If anything, Europe’s banks are as damaged as the governments that regulate them.
When evaluating a problem of such magnitude, one might as well begin with the problem as the Europeans see it — namely, that their banks’ biggest problem is rooted in their sovereign debt exposure.
The state-bank contagion problem is fairly straightforward within national borders. As a rule the largest purchaser of the debt of any particular European government will be banks located in the particular country. If a government goes bankrupt or is forced to partially default on its debt, its failure will trigger the failure of most of its banks. Greece does indeed provide a useful example. Until Greece joined the European Union in 1981, state-controlled institutions dominated its banking sector. These institutions’ primary reason for being was to support government financing, regardless of whether there was a political or economic rationale justifying that financing. The Greeks, however, have no monopoly on the practice of leaning on the banking sector to support state spending. In fact, this practice is the norm across Europe.
Spain’s regional banks, the cajas, have become infamous for serving as slush funds for regional governments, regardless of the government in question’s political affiliation. Were the cajas assets held to U.S. standards of what qualifies as a good or bad loan, half the cajas would be closed immediately and another third would be placed in receivership. Italian banks hold half of Italy’s 1.9 trillion euros in outstanding state debt. And lest anyone attempt to lay all the blame on Southern Europe, French and Belgian municipalities as well as the Belgian national government regularly used the aforementioned Dexia in a somewhat similar manner.
Yet much debt remains for outsiders to own, so when states crack, the damage will not be held internally. Half or more of the debt of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Belgium is in foreign hands, but like everything else in Europe the exposure is not balanced evenly — and this time, it is Northern Europe, not Southern Europe, that is exposed. French banks are more exposed than any other national sector, holding an amount equivalent to 8.5 percent of French gross domestic product (GDP) in the debt of the most financially distressed states (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Spain). Belgium comes in second with an exposure of roughly 5.5 percent of GDP, although that number excludes the roughly 45 percent of GDP Belgium’s banks hold in Belgian state debt.
When Europeans speak of the need to recapitalize their banks, creating firebreaks between cross-border sovereign debt exposure dominates their thoughts — which explains why the Europeans belatedly have seized upon the IMF’s original 200 billion-euro figure. The Europeans are hoping that if they can strike a series of deals that restructure a percentage of the debt owed by the Continent’s most financially strapped states, they will be able to halt the sovereign debt crisis in its tracks.
This plan is flawed. The figure, 200 billion euros, will not cover reasonable restructurings. The 50 percent writedowns or “haircuts” for Greece under discussion as part of a revised Greek bailout — likely to be announced at the end of the upcoming Oct. 23 EU summit — would absorb more than half of that 200 billion euros. A mere 8 percent haircut on Italian debt would absorb the remainder.
Moreover, Europe’s banking problems stretch far beyond sovereign debt. Before one can understand just how deep those problems go, we must examine the role European banks play in European society.
The Centrality of European Banking
Several differences between the European and American banking sectors exist. By far the most critical difference is that European banks are much more central to the functioning of European economies than American banks are to the U.S. economy. The reason is rooted in the geography of capital.
Maritime transport is cheaper than land transport by at least an order of magnitude once the costs of constructing road and rail infrastructure is factored in. Therefore, maritime economies will always have surplus capital compared to their land transport-based equivalents. Managing such excess capital requires banks, and so nearly all of the world’s banking centers form at points on navigable rivers where capital richness is at its most extreme. For example, New York is where the Hudson meets the Atlantic Octen, Chicago is at the southernmost extremity of the Great Lakes network, Geneva is near the head of navigation of the Rhone, and Vienna is located where the Danube breaks through the Alps-Carpathian gap.
Unity differentiates the U.S. and European banking system. The American maritime network comprises the interconnected rivers of the Greater Mississippi Basin linked into the Intracoastal Waterway, which allows for easy transport from the U.S.-Mexico border on the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. Europe’s maritime network is neither interlinked nor evenly shared. Northern Europe is blessed with a dozen easily navigable rivers, but none of the major rivers interconnect; each river, and thus each nation, has its own financial capital. The Danube, Europe’s longest river, drains in the opposite direction but cuts through mountains twice in doing so. Some European states have multiple navigable rivers: France and Germany each have three major ones. Arid and rugged Spain and Greece, in contrast, have none.
The unity of the American transport system means that all of its banks are interlinked, and so there is a need for a single regulatory structure. The disunity of European geography generates not only competing nationalities but also competing banking systems.
Moreover, Americans are used to far-flung and impersonal capital funding their activities (such as a bank in New York funding a project in Nebraska) because of the network’s large and singular nature. Not so in Europe. There, regional competition has enshrined banks as tools of state planning. French capital is used for French projects and other sources of capital are viewed with suspicion. Consequently, Americans only use bank loans to fund 31 percent of total private credit, with bond issuances (18 percent) and stock markets (51 percent) making up the balance. In the eurozone roughly 80 percent of private credit is bank-sourced. And instead of the United States’ single central bank, single bank guarantor and fiscal authority, Europe has dozens. Banking regulation has been expressly omitted from all European treaties to this point, instead remaining a national prerogative.
As a starting point, therefore, it must be understood that European banks are more central to the functioning of the European system than American banks are to the American system. And any problems that might erupt in the world of European banks will face a far more complicated restitution effort cluttered with overlapping, conflicting authorities colored by national biases.
European banks also face less long-term growth. The largest piece of consumer spending in any economy is done by people in their 20s and 30s. This cohort is going to college, raising children and buying houses and cars. Yet people in their 20s and 30s are the weakest in terms of earning potential. High consumption plus low earning leads invariably to borrowing, and borrowing is banks’ mainstay. In the 1990s and 2000s much of Europe enjoyed a bulge in its population structure in precisely this young demographic — particularly in Southern European states — generating a great deal of economic activity, and from it a great deal of business for Europe’s banks.
But now, this demographic has grown up. Their earning potential has increased, while their big surge of demand is largely over, sharply curtailing their need for borrowing. In Spain and Greece, the younger end of population bulge is now 30; in Italy and France it is now 35; in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands it is 40; and in Belgium it is 45. Consumer borrowing in general and mortgage activity in particular probably have peaked. The small sizes of the replacement generations suggests there will be no recoveries within the next few decades. (Children born today will not hit their prime consumptive age for another 20 to 30 years.) With the total value of new consumer loans likely to stagnate (and more likely, decline) moving forward, if anything there are now too many European banks competing for a shrinking pool of consumer loans. Europe is thus not likely to be able to grow out of any banking problems it experiences. The one potential exception is in Central Europe, where the population bulges are on average 15 years younger than in Western Europe. The younger edge of the Polish bulge, for example, is only 25. In time, these states may be able to grow out of their problems. Either way, the most lucrative years for Western European banking are over.
Too Much Credit
Germany has extremely high capital accumulation and extremely competent economic management. One of the many results of this pairing is extremely inexpensive capital costs. When Germans — governments, corporations or individuals — borrow money, it is accepted as a near-fact that they will pay back what they owe, on time and in full. Reflecting the high supply and low risk, German borrowing rates for governments and corporations have long been in the low to mid single digits.
The further you move from Germany the less this pattern holds. Capital availability shrivels, management falters and the attitude toward contract law (or at least as defined by the Germans) becomes far less respectful. As such, Europe’s peripheral economies — most notably its smaller peripheral economies — have normally faced higher borrowing costs. Mortgage rates in Ireland stood near 20 percent less than a generation ago. Government borrowing rates in Greece have in the past topped 30 percent.
With that sort of difference, it is not difficult to see why many European states have striven for inclusion in first, the European Union, and second, the eurozone. Each step of the European integration process has brought them closer in financial terms to the ultra-low credit costs of Germany. The closer the German association, the greater the implicit belief that German financial resources would help them in a crisis (despite the fact that EU treaties explicitly rejected this).
The dawn of the eurozone era prompted lenders and investors to take this association to an extreme. Association with Germany shifted from lower lending rates to identical lending rates. The Greek government could borrow at rates that only Germany could demand in the past. Irish borrowers were able to qualify for 130 percent mortgages at 4 percent. Compounding matters, the collapse of borrowing costs and the explosion of loan activity occurred at the same time as Southern Europe’s demographic-driven consumption boom. It was the perfect storm for explosive banking growth, and it laid the groundwork for a financial collapse of unprecedented proportions.
Drastic increases in government debt are the most publicly visible outcome, but it is far from the only one. The least visible outcome is that extraordinarily cheap credit to consumers triggers an explosion in demand that local businesses cannot hope to fill. The result is unprecedented trade deficits as money borrowed from foreigners is used to purchase foreign goods. Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Spain — all states whose cheap labor when compared to the Western European core should encourage them to be massive exporters — instead have run chronic trade deficits in excess of 7 percent of GDP. Most routinely broke 10 percent. Such developments do not directly harm the banks, but as credit costs return to more rational levels — and in the ongoing debt crisis borrowing costs for most of the younger EU members have tripled and more — consumption is coming to a halt. In the few European markets that demographically may be able to generate consumption-based growth in the years ahead, credit is drying up.
Foreign Currency Risk
Much of this lending into weaker locations was carried out in foreign currencies. For the three states that successfully made the early sprint into the eurozone — Estonia, Slovenia and Slovakia — this was a nonfactor. For those that did not make the early leap into the eurozone it was a wonderful way to get something for nothing. Their association with the European Union resulted in the steady strengthening of their currencies. Since 2004, the Polish, Czech, Romanian and Hungarian currencies gained roughly one-third versus the euro, driving down the monthly payments on any euro-denominated loan. That inverted, however, in the 2008 financial crisis. Then, every regional currency but the Czech koruna (and Bulgarian lev, which is pegged to the euro) gave back their gains. For Central Europeans who had taken out loans when their currencies were at their highs, payments ballooned. More than 10 percent of Polish and Hungarian mortgages are now delinquent, largely because of currency movements.
New Banking ‘Empires’
The cheap credit of the eurozone’s first decade allowed several peripheral European states a rare opportunity to expand their network of influence, even if they were not in the eurozone themselves. They could borrow money from core European banking centers like Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands and pass that money on to previously credit-starved markets. In most cases, such credit was offered without the full cost-increase that these states’ poorer and smaller statures would have justified. After all, these would-be financial centers had to undercut the more established European financial centers if they were to gain meaningful market share. This pushed far more credit into Central Europe than the region otherwise would have attracted, speeding up the development process at the cost of poor underwriting and a proliferation of questionable lending practices. The most enthusiastic crafters of new banking empires have been Sweden, Austria, Spain and Greece.
Sweden has the happiest record of any of the states that engaged in such expansionary lending. Being one of the richest countries in Europe and yet not being a member of the eurozone, Sweden did not experience a credit expansion nearly as much as other states, instead it served as a conduit for that credit — augmented by its own — to its former imperial territories. Alone among the forgers of new banking empires, Sweden’s superior financial stability has allowed it (so far) to continue financial activities in its target markets — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark — despite the ongoing financial crisis. But instead of lending, Swedish banks are now purchasing regional banks outright. Swedish command of the Danish banking sector, for example, has increased by 80 percent since the crisis. Through its new local subsidiaries, Swedish banks now lend more in per capita terms to Danes than they do to their own citizens, and there is no longer a domestic Estonian banking sector — it is 97 percent Swedish-owned. Such expansionary activity is likely to continue so long as Sweden can sustain it, as there is a geopolitical angle to Sweden’s effort: It is seeking to deepen its regional influence not only for economic purposes, but also to mitigate the rising role of its longtime competitor, Russia.
Austria has tapped not only eurozone credit but also taken advantage of favorable carry trades to serve as a conduit for Swiss franc credit into Central Europe. Just as Sweden is using foreign capital to re-create its historic sphere of influence in the Baltic, Austria is doing the same in the lands of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now, the majority of all mortgages in Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Romania — and a sizable minority in Austria — are denominated in foreign currencies, courtesy of Austrian banking activity. With the Swiss franc now locked in at record highs, many of these mortgages are not serviceable. The Hungarian government has felt forced to abrogate the terms of many of these loans, knowing that the Austrian banks are now so overexposed to Central Europe that they have no choice but to take the losses. As the financial crisis has continued apace, Austria has found itself with more exposure, fewer domestic resources and greater vulnerability to external forces than Sweden. So instead of being able to take advantage of regional weakness, it is finding itself losing market share both at home and in its would-be financial empire to Russia.
Spain’s banking empire isn’t even in Europe. Spanish firms BBVA-Compass and Santander have used the cheap euro credit to massively expand credit to Latin America. And Spain’s expansion took a somewhat novel route: The combination of cheap lending at home and in Latin America encouraged more than a million Latin American Spanish speakers to relocate to Spain and gain citizenship. To smooth the naturalization process, Madrid mandated that the new Spaniards be granted top-notch credit, a factor that only added to an already hyperactive construction sector. Spanish banks’ nearly 500 billion-euro exposure to Latin America is, for now, holding; only time will tell its impact to Spain’s bottom line.
The Greek government used its access to cheap credit to build up debt levels that are now the subject of much discussion across Europe. But much less is made of its banks, who encouraged consumers both at home and across the southern Balkans to increase their own debt levels. Being the least experienced of the four would-be financial centers, Greek banks offered the steepest credit breaks to the countries with the weakest repayment potential. Like Spain, Greece also did not make EU membership a condition for lending; vast volumes accordingly were fed into Macedonia, Serbia and even Albania.
Large volumes of suddenly cheap credit made available to eager consumers obviously generated a series of sizable housing bubbles.
Spain’s tapping of European credit markets also underwrote the largest housing boom in Europe. More construction projects have been completed in Spain in recent years than in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom combined. The construction sector — both commercial and residential — has now collapsed and there are about 1 million homes now sitting vacant in a country with just 16.5 million families. Outstanding loans to various real estate interests total some 400 billion euros, all backed by collateral that has lost 20 percent of its value since the housing market peaked.
In relative terms, Ireland actually did more than Spain. At its peak, nearly 10 percent of Irish gross national product was dependent upon construction, with 70 percent of that purely from residences. Half of the mortgages extended during the Irish real estate boom were made at the peak of the market between 2006 and 2008. That sector remains in the midst of a fairly rapid collapse. Residential home prices have reduced by half since their peak in 2007 and are showing few signs of stabilizing. The Irish government hopes that with their eurozone bailout package, their banking sector will become functional again by 2020. Until then, Ireland in effect has no banking sector and has been financially sequestered from the rest of the eurozone.
Two other European states — the United Kingdom and Sweden — have both experienced massive increases in home price growth, and both suffered from price corrections due to the 2008 financial crisis. But prices in both markets have recovered smartly, with Sweden even bouncing back above its pre-crisis highs. Sweden, in fact, is still experiencing a massive housing boom, with annual mortgage credit still expanding at a 30 percent annualized rate.
An important disconnect over the discussion of the future of the European Unionexists, one that divides into three parts. First, there is the question of whether the various plans put forward in Europe plausibly could result in success given the premises they are based on. Second, there is the question of whether the premises are realistic. And third, assuming they are realistic and the plans are in fact implemented, there is the question of whether they can save the European Union as it currently exists.
The plans all are financial solutions to a particular set of financial problems. But regardless of whether they are realistic in addressing the financial problem, the question of whether the financial issue really addresses the fundamental dilemma of Europe — which is political and geopolitical — remains.
STRATFOR has examined the plans for dealing with the financial crisis in Europe, and we find them technically plausible, even if they involve navigating something of a minefield. The eurozone’s bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, would be expanded in scope and reach until it can handle the bailout of a major state, the default of a minor state and a banking crisis of unprecedented proportions. Given assumptions of the magnitude of the problem and assuming general compliance with the plans, there is a chance that the solution we see the Germans moving toward could work.
The extraordinary complexity of the plans being floated in Europe is important to note. It is extremely difficult for us to understand the specifics, and we suspect the politicians proposing it are also less than clear on them. We have found that the more uncertain the solution, the more complex it is. And the complexity of the European situation is less driven by the complexity of the economics than by the complexity of the politics. The problem is relatively easy: Banks and countries under massive financial pressure almost certainly will default without extensive aid. By giving them money, default can be avoided. But the political complexity of giving them money and the opposition by many Europeans on all sides to this solution contributes to the complexity. The greater the complexity, the more interests can be satisfied and — ultimately — the less understanding there is about what has been promised. Some subjects require complexity, and this is one of them. The degree of complexity in this case tells another tale.
The Foundation of the Crisis
Part of that tale is about two dubious assumptions at the foundation of the crisis. The first is the assumption that interested parties are genuinely aware of the size of the financial problems, and to the extent they are aware of it, that they are being honest about it. Ever since 2008, the singular truth of the financial community globally has been that they were either unaware of the extent of the financial problems on the whole or unaware of the realities of their own institutions. An alternative explanation is, of course, willful ignorance. This translates as the leaders being fully aware of the magnitude of the problem but understating it to buy time or to position themselves personally for better outcomes. It could also simply be a case of their being engaged in helpless hopefulness — that is, they knew there was nothing they could do but remained hopeful that someone else would find a solution. In sum, it combined incompetence, willful deception and willful delusion.
Consider the charge that the Greeks falsified financial data. While undoubtedly true, it misses the point. The job of bankers is to analyze data from loan applicants and to uncover falsehoods. The charge against the Greeks can thus be extended to bankers. How could they not have discovered the Greek deception?
There are two answers. The first is that they didn’t want to. The global system of compensation among financial institutions — from home mortgages to the purchase of government bonds — separates the transaction from the outcome. In other words, in many cases bankers are not held responsible for the outcome of the loan and are paid for the acquisition and resale of the loan alone. They are therefore not particularly aggressive in assessing the quality of a given loan. Frequently, they work with borrowers to make their debt look more attractive.
During the U.S. subprime crisis, in the mortgage crisis in Central Europe and in the sovereign debt and banking crisis in Europe, the system placed a premium on transactions, immunizing bankers from the repayment of loans. The validity of the numbers systematically were skewed toward the most favorable case.
More important, such numbers — not only of the status of loans but also about the economic and social status of the debtors — inherently are uncertain. This is crucial because part of the proposed European solution is the imposition of austerity on debtor nation states. The specifics of that austerity and its effect on the ability to repay after austerity heavily depend on the validity of available economic and social statistics.
There is an interesting belief, at least in the advanced industrial countries, that government-issued statistics reflect reality. The idea is that the people who issued these statistics are civil servants, impervious to political pressure and therefore likely providing accurate data. A host of reasons exists for looking at national statistics with a jaundiced eye beyond the risk of politicians pressuring civil servants.
For one, collecting statistics on a society is a daunting task. Even small countries have millions of people. The national statistical database is based on the assumption that all of the transactions and productions of these millions can be measured accurately, or at least measured within some knowable range of error. This is an overwhelming undertaking.
The solution is not the actual counting of transactions — an impossible task — but the creation of statistical models that make assumptions based on various methodologies. There are competing models that provide different outcomes based on sampling procedures or mathematical models. Even without pressure from politicians, civil servants and their academic mentors have personal commitments to certain models.
The center of gravity of our global statistical system, particularly those of advanced industrial countries, is that the selection of statistical models is frequently subject to complex disputes of experts who vehemently disagree with one another. This is also a point where political pressure can be applied. Given the disagreements, the decision on which methodology to use — from sampling to reporting — is subject to political decisions because the experts are divided and as contentious as all human beings are on any subject they care about.
And this is the point at which outside decisions are made, based on outcome, not on the subtleties of mathematical modeling. There is a connection between the numbers and reality, but the mathematics of a bailout rests on a statistical base of sand. It is always assumed that this is the case in the developing world. This creates a certain advantage, in that it is understood that the statistics are unreliable. By contrast, the advanced industrial countries have the hubris to believe that complex mathematics has solved the problem of knowing what hundreds of millions of people in billions of transactions actually have done.
A Culture of Opaque States
Compounding this challenge, the European Union has incorporated societies on its periphery that never have accepted the principle that states must be transparent, a problem exacerbated by EU regulations. Southern and Central Europeans always have been less impressed by the state than Germans, for example. This is not simply about paying taxes but about a broader distrust of government, something deeply embedded in history. Meanwhile, regulations from Brussels, whose tax and employment laws make entrepreneurship and small business ownership extraordinarily difficult, have forced a good deal of the economy “off the books,” aka underground.
While not an EU state, Moldova — said to be the poorest country in Europe — is an instructive example. When I visited it a year ago, the city (and villages outside the city) was filled with banks (from Societe Generale on down) and BMWs. There was clear poverty, but there also was a wealth and vibrancy not captured in intergovernmental statistics. The numbers spoke of grinding poverty; the streets spoke of a more complex reality.
What exactly is the state of the Greek, Spanish or Italian economy? That is hard to say. Official statistics that count the legal economy suffer from methodological uncertainty. Moreover, a good deal of the economy is not included in the numbers. One assessment says that 10 percent of all employees are off the books. Another says 40 percent of Greeks define themselves as self-employed. A third estimates that 40 percent of the total Greek economy is in the grey sector. When evaluating what tries to remain hidden, you’re reduced to guesswork. No one really knows, any more than anyone really knows how many illegal immigrants are participating in the U.S. economy. The difference, however, is that this knowledge is of profound importance to the entire EU bailout.
The level of indebtedness and the ownership of the debt of European banks and countries are as murky as who held asset-backed securities in the United States. Yet there is a precise plan designed to solve a problem that can’t be quantified or allocated. The complexity and precision of the plan fails to recognize the uncertainty because the governments and banks are loath to admit that they just aren’t certain. The banks have grown so big and their relationships so complex that the uncertainty principle parallels the state’s. The United States — where the same governing authority handles all fiscal, monetary and social policies — powered through such uncertainties in the 2008 financial crisis by sheer mass and speed. Europe, with dozens of (often competing) authorities, so far has found it impossible to exercise that option.
The countries that face default and austerity have no better understanding of their own internal reality than the financial institutions understand their own internal reality. Greek numbers on the consequences of austerity for government workers do not take into account that many of those workers show up to work only occasionally while working another job that is not taxed or known to the state statistical services. Thus, one has a complete split between the state and banking systems’ ability to honor debt obligations, the insistence on austerity and the social reality of the country.
Germany has always been different. Ever since the early 19th century German philosopher Georg Hegel declared the German civil service had ended history, the idea of the state as the embodiment of reason has meant something to Germans that it did not mean to others — in both a noble and a horrible sense. We are now at the noble end of the spectrum, but the idea that the state is the embodiment of reason still doesn’t capture the European reality. The Brussels bureaucracy is based on the German view that a disinterested civil servant can produce rational solutions that partisan politicians and self-interested citizens could not.
The founding concept of the European Union involves joining nations that do not share this view, and even find it bizarre, with a nation for which it is the cultural core. This has created the fundamental existential issue in the European Union.
The realization that the rational civil servants of Brussels and Berlin have failed to create systems that understand reality strikes at German self-perceptions. There is a willful urge to retain the perception that they understand what is going on. From the standpoint of Southern and Central Europe, the realization that the Germans genuinely thought that the states on the EU periphery had reached the level of precision of the German civil services (assuming Germany had in fact reached that stage), or that they even wanted to, is a shock. Their publics, which saw the European Union as a means of getting in on German prosperity without undergoing a massive social upheaval putting the state and the civil service — disciplined and rational — at the center of their society, experienced an even greater shock.
The political and geopolitical problem is simply this: Germany is unique in Europe in terms of both size and values. It tried to create a free trade zone based on German values allied with France that looked at the world in a much more complex way. The crisis we are seeing, which Germany is trying to solve with extraordinary complexity and precision, rests on a highly unstable base. First, the European banking system, like the American banking system, does not understand its status. Second, the entire mathematics of national statistics is inherently imprecise. Third, the peripheral countries of the European Union have economies that cannot be measured at all because their informal economies are massive. The fundamental principles and self-conception of Germany and Central Europe diverge massively. The elites of these countries might like to think of themselves as Europeans first — by the German definition — but the publics know they are not, and they don’t want to be.
The precision of the bailout schemes reveals the underlying misunderstanding of reality by Europe’s elites, and specifically by the Germans. To be more precise, this is willful misunderstanding. They all know that their precision rests on a foundation of uncertainty. They are buying time hoping that prosperity will return, mooting all of these problems. But the problem is that a precise solution to a vastly uncertain problem is unlikely to return Europe to its happy past. Reality — or rather the fundamental unreality of Europe — has returned.
In some sense, this is no different from the United States and China. But the United States has its Constitution and the Civil War’s consequences to hold itself together in the face of this problem, and China has the Communist Party’s security apparatus to give it a shot. Europe, by contrast, has nothing to hold it together but the promise of prosperity and the myth of the rational civil servant — the cultural and political side of the underlying geopolitical problem.
When I visited Europe in 2008 and before, the idea that Europe was not going to emerge as one united political entity was regarded as heresy by many leaders. The European enterprise was seen as a work in progress moving inevitably toward unification — a group of nations committed to a common fate. What was a core vision in 2008 is now gone. What was inconceivable — the primacy of the traditional nation-state — is now commonly discussed, and steps to devolve Europe in part or in whole (such as ejecting Greece from the eurozone) are being contemplated. This is not a trivial event.
Before 1492, Europe was a backwater of small nationalities struggling over a relatively small piece of cold, rainy land. But one technological change made Europe the center of the international system: deep-water navigation.
The ability to engage in long-range shipping safely allowed businesses on the Continent’s various navigable rivers to interact easily with each other, magnifying the rivers’ capital-generation capacity. Deep-water navigation also allowed many of the European nations to conquer vast extra-European empires. And the close proximity of those nations combined with ever more wealth allowed for technological innovation and advancement at a pace theretofore unheard of anywhere on the planet. As a whole, Europe became very rich, became engaged in very far-flung empire-building that redefined the human condition and became very good at making war. In short order, Europe went from being a cultural and economic backwater to being the engine of the world.
At home, Europe’s growing economic development was exceeded only by the growing ferocity of its conflicts. Abroad, Europe had achieved the ability to apply military force to achieve economic aims — and vice versa. The brutal exploitation of wealth from some places (South America in particular) and the thorough subjugation and imposed trading systems in others (East and South Asia in particular) created the foundation of the modern order. Such alternations of traditional systems increased the wealth of Europe dramatically.
But “engine” does not mean “united,” and Europe’s wealth was not spread evenly. Whichever country was benefitting had a decided advantage in that it had greater resources to devote to military power and could incentivize other countries to ally with it. The result ought to have been that the leading global empire would unite Europe under its flag. It never happened, although it was attempted repeatedly. Europe remained divided and at war with itself at the same time it was dominating and reshaping the world.
The reasons for this paradox are complex. For me, the key has always been the English Channel. Domination of Europe requires a massive land force. Domination of the world requires a navy heavily oriented toward maritime trade. No European power was optimized to cross the channel, defeat England and force it into Europe. The Spanish Armada, the French navy at Trafalgar and the Luftwaffe over Britain all failed to create the conditions for invasion and subjugation. Whatever happened in continental Europe, the English remained an independent force with a powerful navy of its own, able to manipulate the balance of power in Europe to keep European powers focused on each other and not on England (most of the time). And after the defeat of Napoleon, the Royal Navy created the most powerful empire Europe had seen, but it could not, by itself, dominate the Continent. (Other European geographic features obviously make unification of Europe difficult, but all of them have, at one point or another, been overcome. Except for the channel.)
Europe was exhausted not only by war but also by the internal psychosis of two of its major components. Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union might well have externally behaved according to predictable laws of geopolitics. Internally, these two countries went mad, slaughtering both their own citizens and citizens of countries they occupied for reasons that were barely comprehensible, let alone rationally explicable. From my point of view, the pressure and slaughter inflicted by two world wars on both countries created a collective mental breakdown.
I realize this is a woefully inadequate answer. But consider Europe after World War II. First, it had gone through about 450 years of global adventure and increasingly murderous wars, in the end squandering everything it had won. Internally, Europe watched a country like Germany — in some ways the highest expression of European civilization — plunge to levels of unprecedented barbarism. Finally, Europe saw the United States move from the edges of history to assume the role of an occupying force. The United States became the envy of the Europeans: stable, wealthy, unified and able to impose its economic, political and military will on major powers on a different continent. (The Russians were part of Europe and could be explained within the European paradigm. So while the Europeans may have disdained the Russians, the Russians were still viewed as poor cousins, part of the family playing by more or less European rules.) New and unprecedented, the United States towered over Europe, which went from dominance to psychosis to military, political and cultural subjugation in a twinkling of history’s eye.
Paradoxically, it was the United States that gave the first shape to Europe’s future, beginning with Western Europe. World War II’s outcome brought the United States and Soviet Union to the center of Germany, dividing it. A new war was possible, and the reality and risks of the Cold War were obvious. The United States needed a united Western Europe to contain the Soviets. It created NATO to integrate Europe and the United States politically and militarily. This created the principle of transnational organizations integrating Europe. The United States also encouraged economic cooperation both within Europe and between North America and Europe — in stark contrast to the mercantilist imperiums of recent history — giving rise to the European Union’s precursors. Over the decades of the Cold War, the Europeans committed themselves to a transnational project to create a united Europe of some sort in a way not fully defined.
There were two reasons for this thrust for unification. The first was the Cold War and collective defense. But the deeper reason was a hope for a European resurrection from the horrors of the 20th century. It was understood that German unification in 1871 created the conflicts and that the division of Germany in 1945 re-stabilized Europe. At the same time, Europe did not want to remain occupied or caught in an ongoing near-war situation. The Europeans were searching for a way to overcome their history.
One problem was the status of Germany. The deeper problem was nationalism. Not only had Europe failed to unite under a single flag via conquest but also World War I had shattered the major empires, creating a series of smaller states that had been fighting to be free. The argument was that it was nationalism, and not just German nationalism, that had created the 20th century. Europe’s task was therefore to overcome nationalism and create a structure in which Europe united and retained unique nations as cultural phenomena and not political or economic entities. At the same time, by embedding Germany in this process, the German problem would be solved as well.
A Means of Redemption
The European Union was designed not simply to be a useful economic tool but also to be a means of European redemption. The focus on economics was essential. It did not want to be a military alliance, since such alliances were the foundation of Europe’s tragedy. By focusing on economic matters while allowing military affairs to be linked to NATO and the United States, and by not creating a meaningful joint-European force, the Europeans avoided the part of their history that terrified them while pursuing the part that enticed them: economic prosperity. The idea was that free trade regulated by a central bureaucracy would suppress nationalism and create prosperity without abolishing national identity. The common currency — the euro — is the ultimate expression of this hope. The Europeans hoped that the existence of some Pan-European structure could grant wealth without surrendering the core of what it means to be French or Dutch or Italian.
Yet even during the post-World War II era of security and prosperity, some Europeans recoiled from the idea of a transfer of sovereignty. The consensus that many in the long line of supporters of European unification believed existed simply didn’t. And today’s euro crisis is the first serious crisis that Europe has faced in the years since, with nationalism beginning to re-emerge in full force.
In the end, Germans are Germans and Greeks are Greeks. Germany and Greece are different countries in different places with different value systems and interests. The idea of sacrificing for each other is a dubious concept. The idea of sacrificing for the European Union is a meaningless concept. The European Union has no moral claim on Europe beyond promising prosperity and offering a path to avoid conflict. These are not insignificant goals, but when the prosperity stops, a large part of the justification evaporates and the aversion to conflict (at least political discord) begins to dissolve.
Germany and Greece each have explanations for why the other is responsible for what has happened. For the Germans, it was the irresponsibility of the Greek government in buying political power with money it didn’t have to the point of falsifying economic data to obtain eurozone membership. For the Greeks, the problem is the hijacking of Europe by the Germans. Germany controls the eurozone’s monetary policy and has built a regulatory system that provides unfair privileges, so the Greeks believe, for Germany’s exports, economic structure and financial system. Each nation believes the other is taking advantage of the situation.
Political leaders are seeking accommodation, but their ability to accommodate each other is increasingly limited by public opinion growing more hostile not only to the particulars of the deal but to the principle of accommodation. The most important issue is not that Germany and Greece disagree (although they do, strongly) but that their publics are increasingly viewing each other as nationals of a foreign power who are pursuing their own selfish interests. Both sides say they want “more Europe,” but only if “more Europe” means more of what they want from the other.
Nationalism is the belief that your fate is bound up with your nation and your fellow citizens and you have an indifference to the fate of others. What the Europeanists tried to do was create institutions that made choosing between your own and others unnecessary. But they did this not with martial spirit or European myth, which horrified them. They made the argument prudently: You will like Europe because it will be prosperous, and with all of Europe prosperous there will be no need to choose between your nation and other nations. Their greatest claim was that Europe would not require sacrifice. To a people who lived through the 20th century, the absence of sacrifice was enormously seductive.
But, of course, prosperity comes and goes, and as it goes sacrifice is needed. And sacrifice — like wealth — is always unevenly distributed. That uneven distribution is determined not only by necessity but also by those who have power and control over institutions. From a national point of view, it is Germany and France that have the power, with the British happy to be out of the main fray. The weak are the rest of Europe, those who surrendered core sovereignty to the Germans and French and now face the burdens of managing sacrifice.
In the end, Europe will remain an enormously prosperous place. The net worth of Europe — its economic base, its intellectual capital, its organizational capabilities — is stunning. Those qualities do not evaporate. But crisis reshapes how they are managed, operated and distributed. This is now in question. Obviously, the future of the euro is now widely discussed. So the future of the free-trade zone will come to the fore. Germany is a massive economy by itself, exporting more per year than the gross domestic products of most of the world’s other nation-states. Does Greece or Portugal really want to give Germany a blank check to export what it wants with it, or would they prefer managed trade under their control? Play this forward past the euro crisis and the foundations of a unified Europe become questionable.
This is the stuff that banks and politicians need to worry about. The deeper worry is nationalism. European nationalism has always had a deeper engine than simply love of one’s own. It is also rooted in resentment of others. Europe is not necessarily unique in this, but it has experienced some of the greatest catastrophes in history because of it. Historically, the Europeans have hated well. We are very early in the process of accumulating grievances and remembering how to hate, but we have entered the process. How this is played out, how the politicians, financiers and media interpret these grievances, will have great implications for Europe. Out of it may come a broader sense of national betrayal, which was just what the European Union was supposed to prevent.