Mark’s mad mini-Hansard is a scream. Those European parliamentarians – they’re as informal with their remarks as they are with their expense accounts. They’ll all have heard of Herman soon enough: Alongside Baroso, he’s pushing for an EU supertax. Without more money sent to Brussels, he says, the “European way of life” will be threatened! The EWoL turns out to be “the welfare state,” to use Van Rompuy’s exact words as reported last November in The Times. That’s what Europe needs. More handouts. What a plan: Give them a Marshall, they take a mile (but can’t measure it).
The Greeks, the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Italians are no doubt hoping welfare in the form of bailouts will rescue their welfare-depleted economies, along with the euro itself. The distress in Greece VDH mentioned Wednesday has stirred some pretty bitter anger in Athens, especially toward the Germans, who are expected to do the bailing of these leaky states. Yesterday Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said the euro was in a “delicate position” – to use a straight line – because of the nasty Greeks. But that’s nothing compared to what will happen if Spain’s public spending tanks the economy there, as the Wall Street Journal reported a couple of days ago.
Then today, Robert Mundell, the Nobel Prize–winning economist who is not only Canadian, but also has the increasingly dubious distinction of having inspired the euro, appears in Le Monde to warn that the domino to watch is the Italian one. The Italian economy, he says, is just too big to be bailed, and if it goes, Van Rompuy and his office furniture will go with it.
Italy’s second only to Greece in the size of its public debt – 120 percent of GDP. And the needed reforms, the paper points out, will be hard to implement, what with a history of political instability and a deep divide between the snobby, industrious north and the somewhat pastoral south. (In Italy, no matter how far south you go, people will tell you you’re in the north. You have walk off the south end of Sicily before anyone will cop to being a southern Italian.) The government admits it has no contingency plan in place. The solution, predicts Le Monde: A fist. And not just in the air and out the window.
I put together a survey of the European union fantasy at the Fortnightly site, here.