The Corner

The Eurozone’s Other Deficit

Despite some standard (and not strictly accurate) hand-wringing about the “far right”, this Guardian piece by Carne Ross is a useful reminder that the eurozone crisis is also a crisis of political legitimacy:

The travails of the eurozone have revealed a fundamental, and for too many politicians, still inadmissible, flaw in the European Union. Europe’s populations have been consulted too rarely in this project. And people feel little responsibility for decisions of which they are not part. Greek voters are resisting the savage austerity cuts demanded by the IMF and other creditor countries – particularly Germany – to bring Greece’s enormous debts under control. German voters are increasingly hostile to the bailouts, paid for by them and taxpayers in other creditor nations, to keep the Greek government solvent

…The chickens are coming home to roost. Europe’s political elites are now paying the price for failing to ask Europe’s citizens what kind of European Union they wanted. Apart from Ireland, not a single EU government bothered to consult its own people on whether they agreed with the latest treaty, Lisbon, to give the EU’s institutions yet greater powers. The reason? Most did not trust their own populaces to accept the treaty, so they took the decision on their behalf. Many countries barely approved the Maastricht treaty, which, in 1992, launched the project of Economic and Monetary Union. Several allowed their citizens no say in the matter at all…

…One well-known senior EU official once told me that legitimacy of political institutions grows from the bottom up – people have to choose to give institutions authority. The trouble is that the EU’s structures have been designed from the top down, by politicians telling people that their carefully designed structures should be respected as legitimate, but almost never giving anyone a chance to say yes or no. This method of constructing Europe is the wrong way around, and it would be disastrous to repeat the mistake by imposing yet greater political union to save monetary union.

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