It’s not the most innovative way to start a blog by paraphrasing Shakespeare’s most famous quote but coming from Greece this question seems to define my identity as a citizen, as a European as well as the nation’s troubled political identity and future, Europe’s future itself. A lot of troubled notions used allready but I guess this starts to tell the difficulty of approaching the issue.
The question itself is probably problematic, a pseudo dilemma posed by the very same institutions and people who actually are responsible for it. I mean how can a currency be so crucial to so many people’s lives, with so many consequences affecting their everyday life, their standard of living, their interaction with each other, their dreams. Is it just a technicality that storms our lives and threatens to change the world as we know to the worse? Lots have been written with experts arguing against this and that, politicians talking once more of a need to ”change” the way we consume, the hours we work, the constitution and former ”architects” of EU to admit their mistakes on overseeing some crucial parameteres. Most of the people is watching all this astonished, shocked and confused with all this terminology of ”upgrades”, ”downgrades”, ”treaties”, ”austerity measures”, they even listen that are collectively ”lazy”, ”living beyond their means”. The sword of Damocles is hanging over them sometime now with the form of the nightmare to see all their savings diminished, to lose their jobs if not already lost, a real downgrade of their quality of life, even their survival. And for a year now they are said that they have to choose between a ”euro” life with worse standard than before and an even worse life without it. How did all this happen?
Well, my view on this goes back to the ”holly” foundation of European Economic Community itself, to be more precise even older, to the foundation of European Coal and Steel Community and its concept of building a supranational international organization aiming exclusively at economic(well, the term economic has ended up to be used in the technocratic sense but that’s another issue) integration of a core of European countries. There were efforts for a broader political initiations of integration but Jean Monnet, the founding architect of European Community insisted on a purely economic integration from the top down. It was a detail that struck me as a student of International Relations back in 2000 but with no marxist backgound at the moment and happy to study in a department funded partly by EU I considered that these ”wise statesmen” probably knew what they were doing. As I saw it back then with the tool of coommon sense Europe had been built on a consensus between political, economic/industrial elites and that would be enough to avoid the previous competing conflicts that led to two World Wars. At the time anyway, the common enemy was Comitern and Soviet Union and European Communities would function as the economic twin sibling of NATO. Nobody within Europe could challenge this, it went without saying that there will always be conflicting economic interests, no need to find the cause, all we have to do is finding a way to integrate them in the less harmful way. A lot changed since then dramatically both in the development of the European construction and the world system, notably the unexpected collapse of the bipolar system but European Union stayed basically the same, a top down decision making power institution whose economic integration was enhanced by the initiation of a common currency. EU has become an economic giant but remained a political dwarf with a huge democratic gap. At the same time after the disintegration of Soviet Union, the neo-liberal revolution already initiated in the seventies came to conquer Europe with its End of History declaration and the one way road of the markets’ invisible hand. The fruits of financial liberalization and European economic integration were meant to trickle down automatically to the base . Unions and syndicates were considered soviet style old fashioned remains, ”third roads” were invented, social democracy used left wing rhetoric just to get voted and apply ”realistic” neoliberal innovations like ”flexicurity”. It’s during the latest 20 years that according to OECD income inequality started raising, it’s during these years with ”minor”, ”preventive”, ”humanitarian” wars going in (Former Yougoslavia) and around Europe. There were signs that something had to be done but everyone was relying on the system’s capacity to make little corrections of technocratic nature, plastic money and credit was giving middle incomes the possibility to ease their gradual but steady loss of income by buying hi-tech gadgets and voting with the same political(?) criteria of the best technocrat around, someone who can deliver them the goods at any cost without asking ”how” and ”where from”. And this how we came to September 2008 when our beautifully capitalist made world started not to be able to handle its own obesity, and this how the final countdown leading ”To euro or not to euro” started.(To be continued)