Peeter Koppel Leadership of Europe, now a virtual open-air museum, should admit its mistakes

Peeter Koppel
, editor of the «Money and Economy» section of Fookus
Photo: Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees
  • In two decades, a promising future has turned into a somewhat gray present.

At the time when the euro was about to officially enter circulation in Europe, I found myself sitting in an interesting chair, Peeter Koppel, the editor the «Money and Economy» section of Fookus, writes.

The chair reminded me of that of an airplane pilot because I often had to sit in it for long periods, and there was indeed stress involved – though not quite like that experienced by a pilot. Specifically, I was among those who, in addition to facilitating transactions for clients with various instruments, also traded in currencies.

The euphoria surrounding the euro's introduction in old Europe was immense. The common currency was supposed to usher in an era where Europeans would show the Americans who's boss! Even the currency exchange display was designed to show the euro as more significant than any other currency, including the US dollar. In two decades, this promising future has turned into a somewhat gray present. This does not bode well for a bright future, and economically, Europe has indeed become a kind of «open-air muuseum».

Forgive my primitive attitude, but I do not see the «museum's» leadership addressing the increasingly complex problems that have the potential to significantly increase tensions. I have also not understood whether the problems are genuinely acknowledged – fair enough, the war in Ukraine has occasionally brought surprising resolve and speed into decision-making, but there is enough economy-related issues in the background that, in a slightly longer perspective, will determine whether there are enough resources to meet security challenges or not.

For example – will there be a fiscal union or not? Would I like that? Of course not, but it is impossible to maintain a currency union with countries with such varied economies without adequate transfer mechanisms. The debt crisis in the euro area is not over – it is on pause while the central bank is responding to acute tensions, but is the problem itself really being addressed?

I do not see the «museum's» leadership addressing the increasingly complex problems that have the potential to significantly increase tensions.

Next – is there any plan to curb the proliferation of bureaucracy? The private sector, indeed, views this growing Kafkaesque machinery with increasing skepticism, and let's face it – it does not particularly enjoy the growing administrative burden or the growing bills it receives for this machinery.

Yes, the rules created in Europe often eventually become the standard by which the rest of the world aligns, but in a situation where the economic area's debt-increasing capacity is exhausted, it is also important to understand where taxable value comes from and who creates it.

Thinking further – have you looked at the youth unemployment rate in Southern Europe? Look at it! Policies have likely been pursued where young people have not found adequate opportunities for self-realization in the labor market and thus for managing on their own.

If one were more laid-back, one could worrisomely note that in such a situation, further economic stagnation is indeed likely. But if one is a realist, one should discuss how in the context of stagnation, servicing the debt becomes problematic and young people without meaningful lives are ripe for the picking by fringe political elements.

And migration? Has it been adequately controlled in any way? Are we ready to actually admit that this has so far gone in a way that a large part of the population is probably not happy with?

In my naivety, I would like to see mistakes acknowledged and responses adapted to the situation rather than to the now worn-out narrative(s). Making mistakes is human and will remain so. It is probably not wise to harp too much on past errors. The question is, what happens next? Will mistakes be acknowledged and a pivot made? What's a pivot? Look it up right after you've recovered from finding out the youth unemployment rate in Southern Europe!