Sunday, May 22, 2011


"I knew that I lacked the gifts for a political career. I should have like to be an orator; I was not....My temptation to engage in politics at this late stage [mid-1940's] resembled my youthful ambitions. I did not even have to take the test of joining an organized party - a test that I should certainly have failed. Never having done so, I cannot imagine how I could affiliate myself to a system over which I had no control and, on some subjects, no chance to exert any influence....

If there was stiff competition around the centres of power, there was practically none in the area where I wanted to work - preparing the future, which by definition is outside the glare of present publicity. Since I did not get in the statesman's way, I could count on their support. Moreover, although it takes a long time to reach the men at the top, it takes very little to explain to them how to escape from the difficulties of the present. This is something that they are glad to hear when the critical moment comes. They, when ideas are lacking, accept yours with gratitude - provided they can present them as their own....I have no particular taste for secrecy, despite what some people say; but if I can best expedite matters by self-effacement then I prefer to work behind the scenes."

Jean Monnet, Memoirs (1978), pp. 230-231. Emphasis added.

"It is getting harder, politically. Finland and Germany have approved the bail-out of Portugal. But it is not clear whether both will vote in favour of the second Greek loan package, due this autumn. I still think they might, but it is not hard to imagine some political accident, in Berlin, in Athens, in Helsinki, in all three or somewhere else....

From the perspective of a member of a national parliament, the real-world choice will not be whether they wish to bail out Greece or not. Of course, they do not. The choice will be between a costly bail-out and a costly default. Letting Greece default, whether inside or outside the eurozone, would require a fiscally crippling re-capitalisation of the European Central Bank, or a monetisation of Greek debt, and possibly more support for the financial system. A default may be inevitable at some point, but I doubt that it can, or should, happen before 2013 at the earliest.

Eurosceptic but risk-averse German or Finnish members of parliament might reluctantly vote in favour of a moderately sized rescue package, but a few things will still have to fall into place for that to happen. For example, there must be a plausible growth strategy for Greece. I doubt that MPs will vote for a loan package that relies on austerity alone. This has already failed. Any new package would have to focus on reforms in addition to continued austerity. For these reforms to work, they will have to be supported by the EU. And they will have to challenge powerful vested interests in the recipient countries. I would not rule out a token participation by the private sector, but there could be nothing resembling a debt restructuring....It is not hard to foresee political resistance to such a strategy. My hunch is that Europe’s policy elites will prevail, for a while at least, but the strategy is extremely risky, and dangerous, and prone to a large political accident".

Wolfgang Munchau, "Dogmatists raise the costs of Eurozone crisis," The Financial Times. 16 May 2011, in

Au fond, the real origins of the current Eurozone crisis, and indeed the crisis of legitimacy of the European Union, originated with the politicking of that wonderful, arch-intriguer, Monsieur Jean Monnet. As one can see from this quite frank memoirs, he was quite honest in stating that quiet maneuvering, rather than popular politics was his modus operandi. And indeed for quite a long time, the European Union (EU) was built, institutionally speaking via Monnet's sort of 'politics of maneuver' (to perhaps coin a phrase). Until of course the crises of the failed referendums in Holland and France in 2004. When the essential hollowness at the centre of the European projet was there for all to see. A hollowness due to the fact that the whole apparatus of the union singularly lacks popular, and thus real legitimacy. The European projet as Monnet and his confreres originally conceived it, was not per se, meant to be in any sense, anti-democratic. Unfortunately, from the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 (this month is the sixtieth anniversary of the same) forwards, most of the key decisions that the community has taken, have been taken de haute en bas, as it were. Especially, after the defeat of the EDC in the summer of 1954 by the French National Assembly 1. The end result is that the Community, especially in the last twenty years or so, has relied much more upon a sort of 'stealth' decision-making to advance the EU's agenda 2. Which is not to gainsay, the brilliance of a whole roster of key European Union personalities, from Monnet himself to Jacques Delors (the very last, great personage associated with the EU projet). The matter is simply that in the absence of real, popular legitimacy, the type of difficult decision-making required to salvage the Eurozone is almost impossible to implement, due to a morbid fear of the electorates in various Northern European countries, who were never informed that the creation of the Eurozone and the Euro, would potentially result in the types of cross-border fiscal expenditures, that are now being actively contemplated by Brussels. And as Wolfgant Munchau cogently notes, in absence of concrete steps taken in the very near future, to 'bail-out' Greece and perhaps Ireland and Portugal as well, then the possibility exists of a complete collapse of the entire Eurozone 3. In short, it would not be too much to say that Monnet's dream has almost turned into a cauchemar for the peoples of Europe.

1. For the impact of the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC) on Monnet's thinking and future tactics, see: Monnet, op. cit., pp. 393-399 and passim.

2. As Tony Judt remarked back in 2005: "Legitimacy is also a function of territory. The European Union, as many observers have noted, is an utterly original animal: it is territorially defined without being a consistent territorial entity. Its laws and its regulations are territory-wide, but its citizens cannot vote in each other's national elections (while being free to cast their votes in local and European ballots). The geographical reach of the Union is quite belied by its relative unimportance in Europeans' daily affairs when compared to the country of their birth or residence. To be sure, the Union is a major provider of economic and other services. But this defines its citizens as consumers rather than participants---'a community of passive citizens...governed by strangers'---and thus risks provoking unflattering comparisons with pre-democratic Spain or Poland, or the quiescent political culture of Adenauer's West Germany: unpromising precedents for such an ambitious undertaking." See: Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. (2005), P.798.

3. For an analysis similar to Munchau's see: Simon Tilford, "Debt restructuring will not end the euro crisis", The Centre for European Reform. 9 May 2011, in


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