By Olaf Gersemann / Die Welt / Worldcrunch Friday, Nov. 25, 2011
BERLIN — We now have to rescue whatever is left to rescue of the euro, at any price. And as the crisis continues, one thing is abundantly clear: a decade ago, when the currency was introduced, we were way too gullible.
Here are 10 reason the euro was a mistake. Some of them — superficially at least — seem fairly obvious. Some were aired, and discarded, in the various public and private debates that took place in the 1990s. Other aspects were simply overlooked at the outset, even by currency’s most ardent opponents.
1. No Conflict-Resolution Mechanism
In its first decade, Europe’s economic integration was uniquely successful. At their summits, leaders divvied up profits. That dynamic changed with the euro crisis: now they had to share burdens — something no one was prepared for either institutionally or mentally. This in turn has led to squabbling among nations at a level that hasn’t been seen since 1957, when the Treaty of Rome was signed. (See whether the Fed can save Europe’s banks.)
2. No Rallying Points
With the exception of soccer and the Eurovision Song Contest, there’s nothing around which Europeans rally as a whole — no regional TV stations or newspapers and certainly no common language. During the win-win period, this wasn’t much of a problem. But as soon as the euro crisis broke out, a bad-mouthing us-vs.-them attitude quickly took hold. Even if the crisis itself doesn’t tear the European Union apart, the basic rallying-point problem remains.
3. Language Barriers
Why were institutions such as Germany’s central bank and the E.U. Commission not made aware during the past decade of the extent of the problems in Greece and Portugal? Because experts depended on the Greek and Portuguese governments for whatever information they were getting. Not knowing the languages meant they couldn’t independently read Greek and other newspapers, which would have made the situation abundantly clear. This is an ongoing problem.
Experiences so far are sobering. A case in point is the fudged figures on which Greece’s entry into the zone were based in the first place. And there are no signs presently of any behavior anywhere that would warrant greater trust. (See photos of Obama’s visit to Europe.)
Also see You Thought Greece Was in Trouble, The Real Reason We Have the iPhone: Jobs Took LSD,A Theory of Everything: Are We “Fighting For An Accessible Future?”, and What If Your Toothbrush Ran on Gas?