Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pan Europeanism's Gambit

It would appear that a group of key European leaders combating the EU financial crisis have coalesced around the banner of Pan Europeanism.  Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, has positioned the ECB to start financing struggling EU governments.  This is a paradigm shift from past ECB policies, and moves the ECB toward the money printing mode of the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.  Recently, Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, has spoken of cutting Greece a break on its austerity obligations under the terms of the EU's bailout for that nation. Such magnanimity is at rather sharp odds with her tough stated positions not many months ago.  The recent election in France of Socialist Francois Hollande shifted the EU's political center of gravity toward more accommodative measures--Hollande's notion of austerity is to raise taxes on the wealthy and give them a taste of austerity. 

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union may be the latest move in the gambit to persuade skeptical northern European taxpayers of the need to keep the EU together.  The point is that failure to stay together will raise the specter of another continental war.  Although actual war seems highly unlikely in today's non- and often anti-militaristic Europe, the subliminal message is clear. 

The Nobel award is like a mutual admiration society of Pan Europeanists high fiving each other. The political in-crowd on the continent has to be very pleased with itself at the moment.  But the baseline problem for saving the EU remains whether or not northern European taxpayers are prepared to foot the bill for keeping the whole shebang together.  If not, the $1.5 million or so that comes with a Nobel Prize won't matter.  An interesting question is who will the EU select as its representative to receive the award.  Here's betting it's Angela Merkel, who needs political cover.

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