Another form of solidarity

The EU faced by the "Greek case"

The introduction and evolution of the single European currency in the course of the previous decade represented an extraordinary history of success. Thanks to it, the European Union as a whole, even if so far only 16 of its 27 member states have joined the euro zone, has achieved a degree of stability that has helped to prevent catastrophes from happening, in particular during the most recent economic and financial crisis.Now this success has been placed in doubt by the excessive indebtedness of Greece and the consequent speculation that has had repercussions on the stability of the euro zone itself. The debate, which since then has introduced the question how Greece should be helped and how at the same time to prevent the negative consequences of its insolvency on the Monetary Union, has heralded a new stage in the long and tortuous road towards the political union of Europe.The most obvious reply to this question is the following: the other member states ought to show solidarity and therefore help Greece to overcome this difficult situation through credits or further financial aid; this would also be a demonstration of the cohesion of the Community. Nonetheless, such a response, in this case, does not provide the best solution, even if it recalls one of the basic values on which the unity of Europe is founded. What’s needed here is another form of solidarity. The partners of the Monetary Union should offer Greece the security that she does not stand alone, but only on condition that she makes all the necessary efforts to solve her own problems. The functioning of the European monetary system is based on criteria that must be observed in the interest of its sustainability and its solidity. These criteria also include the one that prescribes that member states should respect fixed limits as regards their own public deficit and debt. They are obliged to observe a budgetary discipline and must balance their books in line with the resources they have at their disposal. A principle of solidarity towards other member states of the European Union is implicit in rigorously fulfilling this contractual obligation. The sustainable and mutual confidence of members is an essential prerequisite for the stability of the common currency.The individual member states, which find themselves in difficulty following acts for which they alone are responsible, and which have therefore violated the solidarity they owe to the Community as a whole, must accept a loss of confidence. Confidence cannot be re-established or consolidated through financial aid as a presumed expression of solidarity, all the more so since one would achieve nothing in this way, given that such interventions would lead, at best, to stopgap relief. The problem, which is encountered in the present case, and which consists in the fact that the Greek State and Greek society have for years been living above their means and have become used to this condition, would not be solved in this way. On the contrary it would be concealed and hence aggravated.For this reason, the Treaty, with which the Monetary Union was introduced into the European political system, contains a clear prohibition for individual member states that fail to balance their own books due to excessive internal debt to acquire their own certificates of indebtedness.With suffering and against the strenuous resistance of citizens, who are directly affected by the drastic but necessary measures to restore the public finances, the Greek government must now take steps to ensure that the deficit accumulated in the course of many years be reduced to a tolerable level in a relatively short space of time.What lesson can we draw from this experience for the future? In any case the European Union must obtain the means to deal itself, – i.e. as the Union – with budgetary discipline in the euro zone and finally assume responsibility for financial and economic policy. Responsibilities for financial, economic and budgetary policy continue in fact to be recognized as the prerogative of member states. In other words: the European Union needs a “government of the economy”, which must be established within the only competent organ of the EU’s own political system, namely the European Commission.However, various member states, especially Germany, oppose such a move, in part for ideological reasons and in part due to lack of confidence in the capacity of EU action. As demonstrated by the present case, in this way they jeopardize the successes of their own policy. This point of view has begun to change under the pressure of the Greek crisis. Governments must learn that today they can no longer consider their responsibility for their own states and peoples without thinking of a responsible contribution to the Union. Only such political co-responsibility for the Union can create the mutual confidence and hence the presupposition for European solidarity.

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