To those who were surprised that the
It was an indirect but powerful rebuttal to the dangerous nationalist and populist rhetoric some politicians have adopted when describing the recent financial crisis.
This message couldn't have come at a better time.
Like ghosts from the past, we see political violence, xenophobia, migrants being scapegoated and extreme nationalism creeping into our public debates -- even into our parliaments.
This is a
But it is these politics of fear that seem to have incapacitated
My recent experience in dealing with the financial crisis in
I am convinced that, with the political will, we could have avoided much pain, squelched market fears and stabilized the euro, while at the same time reformed ailing, unsustainable economies such as ours in
Despite media hype to the contrary, it is the Greek people who first and foremost have wanted this change.
Instead, we allowed fear and mistrust to overcome us. And fear begets more fear and uncertainty.
Instead of understanding, we have name-calling.
Instead of collective, transparent action by our institutions, we have moved into a mode where the community method is undermined by makeshift intergovernmental decision-making, with the balance of power tipping dangerously towards the very large member states.
Instead of real, necessary reform and fiscal responsibility, we are implementing an overdose of austerity -- dealing more with symptoms and less with the root causes of the economic woes of
Instead of rewarding superhuman efforts, we are condemned for our shortcomings.
More than anything else, it has been this political climate that has undermined our common efforts to deal with today's financial crisis.
Whether it is banks or governments, we have adopted a passive, almost defeatist attitude, which we cloak in the language of "caution and responsibility."
It is our responsibility to break this cycle of fear and mistrust now. We are vastly underestimating our own capacities as a union. Our capacity to calm markets or create jobs. We again need to believe in the great capacity of our peoples north and south, west and east. We must rekindle the spirit that united us in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. We know the difficulties we then faced. But we did not cower. We decided to invest in the potential
But this not simply an issue of political will. We must combine this will with an understanding of our real weaknesses. Over the decades we have become more and more interdependent in
But if interdependence is important to keep the peace, it is not enough to make us effective, adaptive, powerful on the global scene. Neither does interdependence guarantee the democratic empowerment of our citizens and the liberation of our peoples' potential.
In fact, this interdependence today is seen by many as a straightjacket, hindering us rather than giving us the capacity to deal with new global challenges.
The debate about the breakup of the Euro, or even euro-exits, is a case in point.
Our citizens therefore wonder whether this European structure is still useful or if we should go our own separate, independent ways. As in "The Odyssey," the sirens are beckoning we change course. However sweet their song, we know their purpose is that we crash on the shallow rocks. If we are to avoid these rocks, we need to radically rethink our governance structures and policy responses so that we capitalize on our strengths and neutralize our weaknesses.
Three fundamental principles must underpin a more progressive
First, we must strengthen
Priority today must be in the financial-economic sphere.
The eurozone is the world's largest economy, the euro is the world's second reserve currency, and on aggregate we have strong economic fundamentals; but we are not able to leverage our strengths due to weak or missing institutions.
Despite significant progress such as:
-- more robust fiscal monitoring;
-- the European Stability Mechanism;
-- the Six-Pack to strengthen governance and oversight;
-- and a broader mandate for the
We have already pooled our risks, now we must pool our strengths. Eurobonds and a federal banking union are vital tools to safeguard the EU from similar crises and set our economy on a more stable footing.
Second, we need to liberate and re-energize
Third, we must strengthen our democratic capacity. We need innovative democratic institutions that will empower our citizens and strengthen the legitimacy of our decisions.
The EU's complex decision-making process has been an outcome of a delicate historical balance between member states. Today, however, people feel they are sidelined by these decisions. In trying to confront its fiscal deficit,
As we take the next steps towards European integration, we must give ownership of this process to the people. Policies imposed on citizens without their active consent are doomed to fail. Already, a frustrated, educated but unemployed younger generation is losing faith in our European institutions and values.
This vacuum has created fertile ground for populism and extremism. When our citizens feel disempowered, they will turn to saviors or target scapegoats, as they do not participate through dialogue and responsible deliberation to understand and solve common problems.
There is nothing wrong with European countries ceding sovereignty in the interest of creating a stronger
Democracy and education will give new capacity to our citizens, and that, in the end, will empower
We do have a choice. Either we empower
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(c) 2012 Tribune Media Services