A bleak future

The beginning of 2016 has inspired the intellectual European debate to reflect on the problems and challenges the EU is facing for the next twelve months. Judy Dempsey, on EurActiv, remarks that the new year, viewed from the perspective of Europe, appears bleak. The convergence of many crises, combined with uninspiring political leadership cannot help to see the future without positive expectations. The Economist argues that the many difficulties of the current political and social situation are caused by a vicious cycle, whereby problems are not solved because nation states fail to cooperate, and the voters get angrier and push their governments into more nationalistic positions. Wolfgang Münchau, on The Financial Times, agrees that more troubled times are coming, but thinks that the voters’ rage might force the EU to change for the better. According to him, the problem lies within the EU’s tendency to flimsy compromises and fair weather decisions. However, strong pressures from the electorate can be the antidote to this, as they might force European institutions to abandon their usual indecisiveness. Of course the risk of disintegration is still high, but sometimes crises are the only way to break away from the old, dysfunctional schemes.

The bridge has fallen

The reinstitution of border-controls on the Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden has generated considerable discussion this week. On The Guardian, Andreas Önnerfors emphasizes how the bridge was a proud monument to integration, which will now loose his symbolic value due to short-term political goals that violate citizens’ freedoms. This loss of symbolic value is also noticed by an editorial written by Hugh Muir, who see the event in the contest of a trend towards more political ‘brutality’ within EU’s member states.

Schengen, problem and solution

The recurring episodes of the refugee crisis have rekindled the ongoing discussion on the future of Schengen. On Euractiv, Jacques Delors, António Vitorino and Yves Bertoncini argue that Schengen itself might be the solution to the problems it causes. They remind the public that the majority of the 141 articles that regulate Schengen’s implementation are designed to regulate the police and judiciary cooperation. They observe that this rules of cooperation are so useful, that even countries, which did not enter the Schengen agreement, have opted in. In light of the refugee crisis, Schengen should not be eliminated, but strengthened by having the European Union patrol its external borders and provide legal channels of immigration.

Greece’s two currencies

On Social Europe, Yanis Varoufakis defends the interesting idea that in Greece there are already two de facto currencies. The restrictions on capitals imposed by the European Union were intended, according to Varoufakis, to force the hand of the government he was part of. However, they did also ended up having the unintended effect of creating two parallel currencies. Given that Greek banks cannot allow to withdraw or relocate more than a limited amount of money every week, Greek’s currency is currently split between Bank Euros (BE), subjected to these limitations, and the more attractive Free Euros (FE). This division has led to the emergence of an informal exchange rates between the two, whereby FE become more valuable, the more restrictions are imposed on BE. According to Varoufakis, this creates many problems by strongly incentivizing informal exchanges within the Greece economy.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo credits: Chris Jones


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