Monday, January 9, 2012

Fracturing of Europe

Everyone who pays even the slightest attention to the financial news, knows that Europe is a mess right now, even though US investors, politicians and media do everything humanly possible to ignore it and in fact, try to scapegoat the continent for supposedly preventing Wall St, and by extension, the US economy from 'growing' exponentially.

Republicans Bash Europe in Search of Votes (Spiegel International) -- "Europe is socialist, bloated and a threat to the global economy. That appears to be the message from the ongoing presidential campaign in the US. Republicans in particular have discovered Europe as a convenient punching bag -- and have even begun accusing each other of being too "European." "

Hee Hee.. I know.. funny, right?  The simplistic assumption being that we, the US would be in a robust recovery if not for those on the other side of the ocean being so incompetent.

But there's a larger and more serious dynamic at play which will cause the ultimate fracture of the Eurozone even if the financial elites are able to recapitalize all the banks, and come up with the Trillions of euros needed to bailout those nations in dire straits.

Quite frankly, the nations of the Eurozone really don't like or trust one another, and due to historical differences and bitter experience, hold deep seeded hostilities which as the economic climate gets worse, boils more and more to the surface.

As an example of sentiment, here's an excerpt from an interview in the German publication Spiegel, english edition, which gives a taste of what I am speaking.  The interview is with Czech Foreign Minister Karl F├╝rst zu Schwarzenberg and he makes it quite clear his opinion of certain nations dictating economic orders to his and other smaller nations:

SPIEGEL: Volker Kauder, the head of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, recently said: "All of a sudden, people  are speaking German in Europe."

Schwarzenberg: First of all, that's not really true. I just saw a study that clearly concludes that fewer and fewer young people in Europe are learning German.

SPIEGEL: But you do realize that Kauder was speaking metaphorically.

Schwarzenberg: Yes, of course. But one has to be careful with such statements. In your country, one can certainly find the belief that "Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen" (ed's note: a 19th century quotation that was later adopted by the Nazis and which translates roughly as "the German nature will make the world prosper").

SPIEGEL: On the other hand, some have practically demanded that the German government assume a leadership role in Europe.

Schwarzenberg: At the beginning of the crisis, I once made the following suggestion to a group of my European counterparts: Why all these complicated resolutions? Let's just enact an EU regulation that there should be a German accountant in every finance ministry in the EU. Everyone laughed, but now we're slowly approaching that point.

SPIEGEL: It's true. The Greeks already have a German watchdog.

Schwarzenberg: Sometimes Germans seem to be saying: If all of you could just be as industrious and frugal as we are, you wouldn't be in such a mess. There's even some truth to that. But one shouldn't declare oneself to be a role model.

SPIEGEL: Would you advise German politicians to be more modest?

Schwarzenberg: It's like this: The rich uncle who helps you out, but makes a big show of it, gets on your nerves. Small countries, in particular, are sensitive about this. And they don't necessarily like it when Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy sit down and flesh out the policies, and then notify the others of their decisions. This can only go well for a while.
In human terms its really no different than when someone is in a desperate fix and needs money to pay bills or be bailed out of jail after an arrest.  The person is grateful at the moment, yet later turns bitter, and resentful of the person or entity who helped them.  The end result down that path is eventual fracturing of business partnership, friendship or familial bond.

Whether or not Europe can keep their economy going with more duct tape, Elmer's glue, and billions upon billions more euros diverted from the people to banks and global Investors, remains to be seen.  But even if there's another successful can-kicking, there are fractures of another kind developing and it will take more that pretty pieces of currency paper to fix.

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