Opinion: Heading in the right direction, but eurozone stability won′t be easy | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.12.2010
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Opinion: Heading in the right direction, but eurozone stability won't be easy

As Angela Merkel tries to harmonize European economic policy, one should expect a lot more discord, according to Christoph Hasselbach, Deutsche Welle's Brussels correspondent. A prime example is the euro bonds dispute.


The two birth defects of the monetary union have come back to brutally haunt the EU: From the outset there was no common economic policy running parallel to the common currency. Hence huge imbalances were created in the eurozone.

And secondly, some of the member countries should never have been included in the euro in the first place. Greece is only the most flagrant, but not the only, example.

For a long time the EU has closed its eyes to these facts. Now they must deal with the consequences in a hurry.

In principle, the measures adopted are heading in the right direction. Governments are committing themselves to do everything necessary to protect the stability of the euro. The starkness and vagueness of this statement is not a disadvantage. Obviously in theory there are limits to aid, but when numbers are mentioned, speculators are immediately encouraged to test the limits.

Christoph Hasselbach

Christoph Hasselbach, DW correspondent in Brussels

The permanent crisis mechanism is a sign of this mutual protection. Any doubts that the euro countries would abandon a country in an emergency, would cause a chain reaction. This would break apart the monetary union, and if that happened, the Germans especially would find it very expensive.

On the other hand, we can expect a lot of resentment if economic policy is adjusted belatedly in the euro countries. Some people might not perhaps realize what that means. It is not just about fiscal consolidation, in itself difficult enough. It's also about sacred cows like national taxes, retirement policy and labor market legislation, to name only a few major areas.

This is about long national traditions, painstakingly developed social consensus. While an alignment won't lead to a complete standardization, countries cannot remain as they are now with differences as big as they are. It is important that the benchmark for any harmonization isn't a so-called golden mean, but global competitiveness.

Time is short. The crisis is forcing the euro-zone countries to a level of integration that they would not have addressed voluntarily. But that's how it is in most cases. If Europe tries hard, it could actually emerge from the crisis stronger.

Author: Christoph Hasselbach, DW Brussels correspondent (nd)
Editor: Rob Turner

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