Ryck upp Europa

Är det helt kört för Europa? Är vi på väg utför, kanske snabbare än vi tror?

Omvärlden ler lite i smyg åt att verkligheten nu hinner ikapp Européerna, som har levt som kungar. I ett kungarike där utlandsemester, tidig pension och en mängd andra saker har varit rättigheter. Men Europas problem påverkar omvärlden. EU måste dessutom kunna visa att demokrati, frihandel och samarbete är ett sätt att bevara freden.

And yet an ailing Europe benefits nobody. Even now the European Union is the world’s biggest economy. Were it healthy, the worst of the global economic crisis would be over. Politically, everyone has a stake in the fate of Europe’s Big Idea, that rival nation states can do better by pooling some sovereignty instead of going to war. And socially, all democracies eventually have to grapple with Europe’s Big Problem, that governments and social protection tend to grow until they choke the economies that pay for them.

Europa har rest sig förut. Den gemensamma marknaden var ett svar på oljekriserna som drabbade Europa och som påverkade tillväxten högst negativt.

För att än en gång väcka liv i Europa finns det de som förespråkar mer politik.

Championed by France, they argue that the chaos that has spread from Greece to southern Europe shows the euro zone needs a core of dirigiste powers to run Europe in a more political and less technocratic way. To limit “unfair” competition, they want things like Europe-wide labour standards and some harmonisation of taxes. They want to oversee transfers of communal cash to the euro’s weakest members.

Sen finns det det länder som hellre ser att man håller det man har lovat och att det införs fler och tydligare regler.

Germany which, mindful of its own history, does not trust politicians with monetary policy. Its people were assured that the euro would be run with the same discipline as their beloved Deutschmark and they are sick of paying for all of Europe’s new schemes. Instead Germany wants a harsh system of rules, enshrined by treaty if need be, that would ban countries from spending too much.

The Economist pekar på behovet av reformer för att effektivisera ekonomin. Det går helt enkelt inte att spara sig ur problemet. På sikt måste tillväxten komma igång och det rejält. På grund av läget mellan Frankrike och Tyskland så kanske det bästa sättet att gå framåt. Tysklands exportindustri har dessutom kommit igång fint så de kommer att ha svårt att svälja att de ska lösa ut alla andra.

A rival perception, however, suggests that they are more like a couple on the verge of divorce: they agree on little, and trust each other even less. Consider the row over economic government. The French want to concoct a euro-zone block, with a direct line to the European Central Bank and fiscal harmonisation. The Germans reject this. They insist on a wider grouping, backed by strict budgetary discipline, and harsh sanctions for bad behaviour.

Den gemensamma marknaden är en av de aspekter med EU som jag tycker är absolut bäst. Men det finns fortfarande brister. EU är 30 procent mindre produktivt än USA.

The single market remains half-built. Mario Monti, an Italian economist and a former commissioner, has recently set out just how much more is left to do*. The EU is 30% less productive than America in services. Because European services companies operate behind national barriers they innovate less and they tend not to gain the full economies of scale. Whole areas, such as health care, are exempted from EU-wide competition. Likewise some high-tech industries, such as telecoms, have been protected and others, such as e-commerce, barely existed in 1992. A single digital market could be worth 4% of EU GDP by 2020. The EU has a costly, fragmented patent system, so products (like far too many workers) cannot cross borders easily; energy supply has not been properly liberalised; debts are hard to collect across borders. And so it goes on. National to-do lists are just as long. In Spain and Italy privileged workers are protected, discouraging new permanent jobs. German entrepreneurs are immediately taxed on equity they put into a start-up. Europeans retire too early everywhere.

Välfärden i  Europa kommer nog också att behöva ses över. Även om vi lyckas komma tillrätta med tillväxten lär det bara räcka till för att vi kan bibehålla dagens nivåer.

The problem is that the “European social model” has become, too often, a synonym for a very expensive way of doing things. It has also become an end in itself, with some EU leaders calling for Europe to grow purely in order to maintain its social-welfare systems. That is a pretty depressing call to arms: become more dynamic so Europe can still afford old-age pensions and unemployment benefits.

The Economist pekar på två möjliga vägar för Europa en positiv och en negativ.

Den positiva är att man har lärt sig läxan. Inte minst Tyskland ångar bittert att man bröt stabilitetspakten.

The single currency was always supposed to drive structural reforms, as once-profligate countries were forced by the rules, and their peers, to live within their means. Instead, France and Germany led a rebellion against the disciplines of the “stability and growth pact” on the first occasion it looked about to catch them. That signalled a free-for-all.

Nu kanske man förstår att man måste följa regler och att det inte går att lura marknaden. Strukturreformer som det har tjatats om under lång tid har börjat röra på sig.

European governments have nagged each other to carry out structural reforms for years, without great success. As Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg, said memorably in 2007: “We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

Now, with markets shunning some Euro-laggards, doing the right thing is a matter of survival. Long-stuck dossiers are finally moving. On July 1st the European Commission announced plans to ram through an EU-wide patent valid in all 27 countries (a key demand of European business), after years of delays by Spain and Italy over the status given to their languages.

Det finns dessutom numera en medvetenhet och förståelse för att pensions- och förmånssystemen i mångt och mycket är orimliga. Det är ett stort steg framåt. Dessutom kanske länderna inser att strukturrefomer är ett sätt att kapa i budgeten.

Optimists have grounds for hoping that a squeeze on public spending will bring about some structural reforms by default. Desperate for swift cuts, governments have gone for slashing what they control directly, starting with public-sector pay and government running costs (including, in France, the presidential hunt).

Det är om allt går bra. Men det kommer att kräva mycket av EU. Mer än vi hitintills sett. Annars kommer de nationella parlamenten får svårt att göra sin del i det hela.

Leading officials in Brussels say they have to convince voters that Europe’s model of open borders is in the interests of the ordinary citizen. The EU must craft regulation that is seen as stopping abuses, especially in the financial sector, or “we will see the rise of protectionism and populism,” says a senior Brussels official.

Men om vi ska hitta lösning beror på vilken syn vi ska ha på EU. Det finns två grundläggande synsätt som riskerar att krocka med varandra. Inte minst hur man ser på och vill hantera globaliseringen.

For free-market liberals, the enlarged union’s size and diversity is itself an advantage. By taking in eastern countries with lower labour costs and workers who are far more mobile than their western cousins, the EU in effect brought globalisation within its own borders. For economic liberals, that flexibility and dynamism offers Europe’s best chance of survival.

But, for another other camp, involving Europe’s left (and more or less the entire French political class), the point of Europe is to keep globalisation at bay, or at least curb its power. According to this thinking, single nations are too small to maintain high-cost social-welfare models in the face of global competition. But the EU, with its 500m people, is big enough to assert the supremacy of political will over market forces. For such politicians, European diversity is a problem because it undermines the most advanced (meaning expensive) social models.

Centralt är alltså att Frankrike och Tyskland kan enas. Två länder som skiljer sig åt på många punkter. Det konstigaste är att den av dem som ligger sämst till visar så lite intresse av att genomföra riktiga och viktiga reformer.

The future of Europe: Staring into the abyss | The Economist.