Europe needs an act of liberation. Year after year, the countries haggle over who should bear the burdens of the euro crisis – who should cut costs and institute reforms, and who should provide the assistance and funding. Only its citizens can liberate Europe from this spiral of divisiveness and mistrust, and the way to achieve this is to put an agenda of reform and solidarity to a referendum.
Six years after the demise of Lehman Brothers and four years after the eruption of the sovereign debt crisis, the European economy remains weak. Based on trade figures alone, the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East should hardly be capable of inflicting damage on Europeans. And yet all it takes is a little bad news to stop growth and revive fears of recession and deflation.
Europe is a pathetic sight, compared with the economies of the United States and China. The north believes it has done everything for the south, and yet France, Italy and other southern countries still refuse to institute tough reforms. Those in the south, on the other hand, feel they are living in a Europe controlled by the Germans, one that demands nothing but sacrifices.
The German chancellor and the head of the European Central Bank have long tried to take a joint approach to saving Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that the crisis-ridden countries cut costs and reform. ECB President Mario Draghi is buying them time by offering cheap money. But now both leaders are reaching their limits.
Interest rates are almost at zero, and now Mr. Draghi wants to spend hundreds of billions of euros to buy debt securities from the banks. He is taking a great risk, because taxpayers will end up being liable if he is unable to sell the securities at full price in the future – or, worse yet, if the money bubble bursts and a new euro crisis erupts.
At the same time, Ms. Merkel’s appeals are producing more anger than effort in the Mediterranean. The Germans, who are weary of reform, should do something for the economy, say her detractors. The give and take that was once Europe’s recipe for success has now turned into punching and and stabbing.