Monetary Union and the Politicization of Europe

  • This paper argues that the politicization of Europe is largely due to the decision to proceed with economic and monetary union (EMU) and to the subsequent crisis of the euro zone—a crisis that had been predicted by some of the world’s best experts: economists such as the Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, Harvard’s Martin Feldstein and Kenneth Rogoff, Berry Eichengreen of the University of California at Berkeley, and by several other top specialists (Majone 2009; 92-94).
    That their warnings were totally disregarded by both EU leaders and European institutions is something that has to be carefully analyzed if we wish to avoid similar disasters in the future. Part, but only part, of the explanation may be a political culture of total optimism which until recently has inspired the public pronouncements of European leaders. The gap between the official rhetoric celebrating the economic achievements of European integration and the reality of poor economic and productivity growth went largely unnoticed in the past because most EU policies were too remote from the daily problems of the people to seriously concern public opinion. Before monetary union complaints about the disappointing economic performance of the EU could be answered by reminding the critics that Community competences did not include macroeconomic policymaking.
    Also in policy areas of Community competence, moreover, it was difficult for ordinary citizens, and sometimes even for the experts, to allocate responsibility for unsatisfactory outcomes as between “Brussels” and the national governments.