Most media coverage of the eurocrisis comes from the national press of the countries concerned. This has the effect of forcing a national perspective on the issue, ranging from a mere focus of what “one’s own” politicians did or said – in almost all publications – to populist tendencies of renationalisation and euroscepticism – in the tabloids.
The current issue of Foreign Affairs includes a collection of comments called Eurodaemmerung, which offers an outside-looking-in approach, which breaks out of the fixed them-and-us scheme that is so entrenched in inner-Eurozone media coverage. The authors of the Eurodaemmerung-articles all are distinguished British or American academics and / or former government officials. In their view, the Eurozone is all “them”, without any animosities about who has to pay for whom or who forces this and that set of measures on whom. This makes their texts on the subject more worthwhile to read than everything that has come out of the newsrooms of News Corp. and Axel Springer owned press organs over the last few years combined.
Short abstracts of the articles follow, to give you a better idea what to expect.
The Crisis of Europe by Timothy Garton Ash
Ash’s take on the crisis starts out with a thorough historical interpretation of European integration, stating that the current mixture of national orientation of the electorate and the way national politicians handle the two levels end up being “an odd way to run a continent”. He several reasons for this, including a missing European compatriotism and Germany struggling with it’s own course for the common currency which it pushed for itself under Kohl. With the historic driving forces for European integration gone, a Europe of freedom and prosperity is taken for granted and therefore suffers from it’s own success, a state which is not easily fixed.
Why the Euro Will Survive by C. Fred Bergsten
Bergsten considers the measures taken so far to save the Euro as overall successful, and envisions that “[w]hen the dust settles, the common currency, and indeed the entire project of European integration, is likely not only to survive but to emerge even stronger.” The monetary union is described as a half-hearted solution, which was born out of political compromise instead of thorough conceptualisation and therefore lacks a more complete common financial and economic system. He believes however, that capability to save the debtor countries and the currency is given. It is a question of political will, and a struggle, in which every creditor tries to get the best deal for himself. On the bottom line, he finds that this “game of political chicken” has thus far been successful, and should in the medium-term be followed up by a program to re-stimulate growth, which he outlines.
Germany’s Unsustainable Growth by Adam Tooze
Tooze talks about how austerity measures , which the German administration currently tries to export into other Eurozone countries, came to be domestically. For sustainable growth, he argues, investment is needed and, thanks to record-low interest rates at which Germany can currently borrow money, also easily possible, were it not for the constitutional debt-ceiling which the country gave itself shortly before the crisis. Austerity should only be used as “a form of shock therapy”, with “meaningful investments” as a follow-up.
Obviously, the articles are open to criticism. For example, the articles (with the exception of Ash) hardly take the European Union system into consideration as something that goes beyond an intergovernmental international organization (that is, an agreement between sovereign nations). One might argue, that this is not really relevant for the issue at hand, as it is in fact largely handled intergovernmentally. Yet, this is a downside of a non-European perspective and also an effect of the tradition the journal Foreign Affairs itself has to be seen in. In the transatlantic constellation between Western Europe and the United States, the EU as such plays a supporting role at best, with its common external action focused elsewhere.
Nonetheless, the perspectives offered in the three Eurodaemmerung articles are exceptionally interesting, and in Foreign Affairs find a journalistically refined way out of purely academic literature. I recommend to pick up a copy of the Sept/Oct issue of Foreign Affairs from your local news stand or, if you prefer digital over dead tree, get it for your Kindle / tablet with Kindle app, or as a PDF-file from foreignaffairs.com.
The current issue of Foreign Affairs has three very interesting comments on the eurocrisis, which are not tainted by a national “them vs. us” attitude as mainstream media coverage is. Go read them.