Can Europe Keep It Together?
“The message is this: The muddling through will continue.”
The speaker was Markus Kerber, head of the German Federation of Industries, responding to a question over whether Europe’s leaders can find a way out of the economic crisis that threatens to destroy decades of postwar efforts to build a united Europe. These days, “muddling through” is what passes for optimism on the continent as it faces its biggest economic and political crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Recently, a group of American and German journalists brought together by Germany’s Bosch Foundation and the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University had a chance to meet with German and European leaders to see whether the euro can survive.
In Germany, seen by needy countries as the potential but reluctant savior — a “bad Samaritan,” in the words of one pundit — the answer is a resounding Yes. But no one knows when, nor how. Germans feel resentful over being cast as the bad guys, even as anxiety rises in other capitals with each new declaration of one more bank or treasury facing insolvency and one more meeting of statesmen and bankers comes up empty-handed.
The big fear is that a failure to “muddle through” would lead to the collapse of the common currency and bring about the unraveling of the 17-nation Eurozone and, eventually, the larger, 27-nation European Union, the great postwar project designed to create a network of common interests and consign the rivalries that bred centuries of chronic warfare to the history books.