Thursday, March 25, 2010

European Disunion

Only a few weeks ago it seemed like Greece's EU friends would take care of it. That idea fell through, though, and now Germany and France are squabbling over whether to bring the IMF in to deal with the problem. As if things weren't bad enough on the Continent, Portugal's debt was downgraded with exquisite timing.

Germany's reluctance to bankroll a Grecian bailout is pretty understandable. Athens routinely cooked their books when times were good, and the Greek public is throwing fits over cuts to a posh welfare state they couldn't afford to begin with. Add to the Greeks' own bad behavior the fact that Germany is essentially the keystone for all of Europe's economy these days and you can comprehend why Germans might be getting a little frustrated.

These troubles highlight just how weak the EU is as a political institution. EU member states must beg their sister states for help--the equivalent of Florida having to go directly to New York every time it wanted to repair hurricane damage. Despite all the regulations coming out of Brussels, the EU is still more of a confederation than a real union. During the EU elections last year, I kept hearing a weary sort of optimism from Europeans about the future strength of the EU. The Grecian Dilemma (sounds like a Ludlum story about hair dye) casts more cold water on that dream.

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