Unhappy Union: How the Euro Crisis- and Europe - Can Be Fixed Hardcover – 1 May 2014
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plenty...to help anyone trying to grasp what exactly has gone on in Europe these past few years. (Wall Street Journal)
a convincing summary of of the eurozone crisis, as well as a useful list of prescriptions to ensure the EU and the currency union at its heart regain the mojo and the stature they have lost since the start of the decade. (Financial Times)
How the European project is close to breaking point and the difficult decisions that have to be made for it to survive.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It's also a bit depressing; as the authors point out, the Euro project now dominates all other EU business, and the fixes needed to protect the Euro can't be applied as they are politically unacceptable, so the EU is condemned to high debt, high unemployment and low growth for the foreseeable future.
The authors have some trenchant and timely proposals for Europe's battered leaders as to what they should do now.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Peet and LaGuardia have both been correspondents for The Economist on Europe. They know their subject matter intimately.
Chapter 1 looks at the depths of the Euro crisis, Chapter 2 goes through the history of Europe, Chapter 3 looks at how the EU works, chapter 4 the launch and early days of Europe and Chapter 5 and 6 go through the details of the crisis. Chapter 7 & 8 describe how Europe has changed and Chapter 9 look at the European Parliament, Chapter 10 and 11 on Europe’s new foreign policy and Chapter 12 compares the Euro Zone to the US and describes what the authors can be done to fix Europe.
The book has some interesting revelations, such as that the Germans did seriously think about throwing Greece out of the Euro. The chapters on history are fun to read and even amusing in parts. The chapters on the crisis are hard going, the Byzantine details of the way Europe works make for difficult and fairly dull reading despite the enormously serious nature of the crisis they are describing. Chapter 10 and 11 highlight the problems with the EU.
The book describes the curious experiment that the Euro is. It seems the authors may inadvertently be fuelling scepticism of the Euro as they painstakingly describe the mess of European decision making. The chapters comparing the recoveries in the US to the Eurozone lend weight, again inadvertently to the idea that the Euro was a mistake.
The Wall Street Journal had said the writing was a bit too technical and I thought I could work through that. It's a fair criticism and there's nothing too bad about highly technical writing, though the book loses some of its interest when it gets too technical. But for me the issue was not how technical the writing was, but rather a very poor method of organization, which wound up resulting in the technical writing.
What I mean by this is the following: the EU has two basic philosophical problems: 1) it has 28 members but only 18 use the Euro, and 2) there is a gap between it and the democratic process, and associated gaps between it and national governments. Almost everything else can be explained around and through these philosophical premises, from the political aspects of those who are in the union but not the currency, between members who are in the currency, between debtors and creditors, between northern and southern countries, between austerity countries and heavy-spenders, and so on and so forth. The steps taken to address these conflicts can then be explained. So if you mention these things at the beginning, the rest of the writing process becomes much easier. You do not have to resort to the highly technical stuff, or when you do it comes off a good deal smoother. In essence, you start big, then go to details to illustrate.
These authors, however, started with the details, then tried to go to the larger philosophical problems two-thirds of the way through--that is to say, they wrote the book backwards, and it caused them to engage in almost illiterate babble for much of the first several chapters. With some books this might work; with this one it didn't, because the subject matter is somewhat complicated. Even for me.
So, I suppose, what I am saying is that while I have a better understanding of some of the problems facing the EU, and thus can invest my money better--which was why I got this book--I also feel that the knowledge I have isn't as clear as it could and should be, and that this is a result of author incompetence, rather than slowness of mind. I am not saying this book is worthless, but I am saying to be cautious when buying and to look for alternatives which may be superior as resources.
I’ll select two statements that illustrate the problems of the EU. The first says that the North-South division, in which the AAA-rated northern powers carry along the indebted, stagnant South, will continue indefinitely, inasmuch as two major economies are unable or unwilling to undergo structural reform. One is Italy whose “ungovernability has been confirmed” and the other one is the “unchanged and unchanging France”. As a fallout of the Euro-crisis, France and Italy are therefore ”at best bystanders, at worst, largely irrelevant”, so stated in 2014.
The second statement refers to the fact of the EU being an economic giant, but a political pygmy. Both the UK and France, cherishing their elevated status as nuclear powers and having permanent seats on the UN Security Council, feel they have global political significance on their own and are unwilling to surrender it to the greater status of the EU’s political authority. In fact, the British have repeatedly frustrated the formation of a European military headquarters.
If these two judgments prove to be true, the EU will forever remain a disunited political pygmy and financially and economically there is no hope that an uncompetitive and indebted South will ever cease riding piggyback on a few prosperous, northern countries. Both of these conclusions are dismal and disheartening.
The authors are convinced, the common currency of the Euro-zone is a must and it demands a coherent financial structure including a banking union and a powerful supervisor such the ECB. Their recommendations include to cut unpayable debt early at the expense of unwise and foolhardy lenders; to create some form of mutualization of debt and a rainy day budget to spread the burden; there should be no more bailouts; and that in the long run financial discipline should be exerted by the market rather than Brussels. They search for means to prevent the pesky UK from exiting.
The overall impression of this investigation provides a rather dim outlook for a successful future of the European idea. Yet, they stress conversely the deep-seated power of that idea and they praise German chancellor Merkel who has staked hundreds of billions of euros of her taxpayers’ money to rescue other countries while retaining the trust of her citizens. Furthermore, despite the discouraging news, small and large eastern countries are lining up to join the union, still believing in the European Dream.
Oh yeah, that dream! Isn’t is a calling from history for us to spread the European gospel eastward into Russia and Asia, in order to move the world toward an ever enlarging federation? Alas, that gospel is mute and nobody hears it, because the members of the EU are stumbling over their own disunity.
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