jueves, 22 de diciembre de 2011

Happy 2012! A challenging year for all the EUropeans

Christmas is here. Time for joy. Although these are difficult times for many Europeans, a new year is about to begin while we wonder whether the end of the crisis is getting closer. In the last four years Europe has been able to cope with one of the worst threat of its history: the collapse of the euro and the risk of a long-term paralysis. Particularly in 2011 we have witnessed two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a growth in national egotism, and on the other, the political and social will to get involved in a stronger EU paving the way for a political federation. It was about time to acknowledge what the master builders of the euro knew too well, that a common currency would only make sense if accompanied by political union.

Finally it seems the EU has found the way towards a deeper integration. The sovereign debt crisis in fact was just a symptom of a much larger crisis affecting all Western democracies. It also has stressed the link between economy and politics. The euro has been at the core of the debate. During these years political leaders have designed a number of plans for saving the euro. Many of them have been pressing for the introduction of Eurobonds. It seems we will still have to wait, though probably we cannot go much further away without common debt issuance by the ECB. Shall we see the Eurobonds in 2012? My bet is that we will.

As we know, any form of communitization of debt (Eurobonds are) will only be possible at the end of the restructuring process which is underway now, after the Treaty revision, which will be probably signed next March. As for the mechanism for automatic sanctions over deficit, once approved, the implementation into national legislation would be supervised by the European Court. In the meantime the ECB and the IMF are expected to work together in ensuring healthy public budgets in Member States.

In the last years in the Eurozone, the foundations of our political union have been under threat due to the lack of trust in the euro, which has not been just a peripheral one. Certainly in 2011 we have witnessed the fall of governments from Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark and Spain, but the most relevant fact of the year is that political leaders have finally decided to strengthen economic governance like never before.

To a certain extent, in the last Council, 26 out of 27 Member states laid the foundations of a closer union, for the proposed Treaty revision is a step forward in a context of economic uncertainty. Sadly, national egotism remains the biggest threat. David Cameron went to Brussels with the only intention  "to defend British interests" and there have also been national debates in Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, revealing the anti-EU fears or prejudices remaining in some nations, unable to admit the main lesson to draw from this crisis, which is that governments can no longer act independently.

It’s undeniable that States need the money from the banking system and the markets to finance public policies, but governments have also realized that markets need tighter discipline and warranties. A deeper Eurozone integration acts as a safeguard for investors, and this is why the EU needs to step up its economic governance if it is to guarantee fiscal discipline in each Member State.

From 2012 on, the agreed reform package together with the legislative six-pack, will be implemented, ensuring a better coordination of economic and national budget policies. These political actions are a reflection of the idea of More Europe, which means Europe acting as a single voice, for national governments are no longer able to cope with the pressures of their creditors and private rating agencies. What remains to be seen is how we can manage to ensure accountability for the institutional framework so that to overcome current lack of confidence felt by its citizens, not just the markets.

Only a united Europe can be a dynamic economical and prosperous power in a globalized world. We bet for a long-term EU project, with requires not just budget balancing or fiscal discipline, but also policies for growth and competitiveness. We need institutions that give financial and political support to SMEs and entrepreneurs across Europe.
The challenge we face is not only about the transfer of economic or currency decisions, not even about a tax union. We are currently in a stage where national identities are losing their significance. Up to now the risk of euro-breakup has led to institutional reform which has de facto deepened integration.

These changes should be the basis for a wider civil involvement, in which citizens would lay claim to a higher level of freedom and shared values. We must ensure the free movement and achieve the full internal market development in order to increase opportunities for all the European people.

More Europe means more chances for the European citizens in a context of extreme global competition. This is why Federal Europe project is more compelling than ever. We will keep it alive. Merry Christmas to all the Europeans and a very happy 2012!