The duration of the Greek crisis and the harshness of the series of austerity plans that have been imposed on it to straighten out its public finances and put it in a position to meet its obligations to its creditors have upset European public opinion and attracted great comment. The hard-fought agreement reached on Monday 13 July at the summit of the euro zone heads of state and government, along with the demands made prior to the Greek referendum on 5 July, which were rejected by a majority of voters, contain conditions that are so unusual and so contrary to State sovereignty as we are used to conceiving of it that they shocked many of Europe’s citizens and strengthened the arguments of eurosceptics, who see all this as proof that European governance is being exercised contrary to democracy.
Will the institutions that the European Union has developed – from the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, which created it and defined the roadmap that led to the launch of the euro in 1999, to the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, which took up the main articles of the constitutional treaty that the French and Dutch had refused to ratify in referendums in 2005 – be sufficient to resolve the crisis facing the EU today? After five years of economic stagnation and nearly four years of persistent pressure on national debts, it had seemed that fears about the sustainability of the European Monetary Union had been appeased by the determination shown in early autumn 2012 by Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, to ensure the future of Europe’s single currency at any cost. But the results of the recent general elections in Italy have once again unsettled the European sovereign debt markets and revived speculation, while the euro zone has plunged back into a recession even as the wounds of the previous one lay still unhealed. Continue reading “The death throes of the “Confederation of Europe”?”
“Shock” or “Pact”? The debate over the loss of France’s competitiveness has recently focused on how fast a switchover from employer payroll taxes to another type of financing is being implemented, implying that the principle of doing this has already been established. As France faces a combination of a deteriorating situation in employment and the trade balance, plus growing evidence that its companies are becoming less competitive compared to those of most of our partners  and that business margins are alarmingly low for the future, the need to reduce labour costs seems to be clear. But how and how fast are subject to debate. Should there be a rise in the CSG tax, VAT, or other charges, at the risk of reducing the purchasing power of households in an economic context that is already worse than bleak? Continue reading “Long-term competitiveness based on an environmental tax”