The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

From ashes to ashes?

| Updated: October 22, 2017 07:56:27

From ashes to ashes?

Barely six-years after the Second World War, six countries sat across the table to cobble together an agreement, an understanding that were driven by fear, by necessity and by compulsion. In so doing they looked beyond the acrimony and heartbreak of genocide, rampage, looting, rape and death of civilians and children in one of the most cruel misadventures ever. It took heart wrenching farsightedness and sheer guts for leaders of France, Belgium and the Netherlands to face the new leaders of Italy and West Germany in crafting out a Steel and Coal treaty that effectively put industrial production under one authority. The sixth, Luxembourg was and continues to be one of those states that defy definition but still remain a country. The object was to rule out any future war in Europe for, what was believed to be natural resources. In short, a disbelief that for all the assurances of the United States and the then USSR, even a carved up Germany and an Italy with new politicians could be believed in.
Another six years later, the European Union (EU) was formed. Sixty years later the Union has changed almost beyond recognition both in terms of the diversity of its members and overarching scope and authority. With Germany now united again, the perceived security threat is the truncated Russia. Germany's efforts to play the dominant role in security was scotched in 1954 but though never quite out rightly stated, the effort continued. It was Britain, who was one of the last of the Mohicans to join up and yet maintain its distance , that finally scotched the secret ambitions of Ms Merkel's Germany. Now that Britain has opted to exit the EU, she didn't  have a representative sitting across the table in the same room the treaty was agreed sixty years ago.
As the world economy begins to thaw from the frozen compartment of stagnation and the Euro Zone follows suit, however slowly, it hasn't been enough to ward off increasing public demands for a return to the sovereign state status. There are conflicting opinions on the sixty-year report card. Some argue the Euro Zone has failed to provide buffers to counter global collapse while others said it never did deliver enough to begin with. In the absence of absolute control, the runaway Greek economy was allowed to head towards the disaster that it is. Today, it is a pale shadow of the proud nation it had been, literally abrogating its sovereign status. France, Spain, Italy and Portugal are tottering and swaying uncertainly and even the United Kingdom has so far given few clues how it would negotiate the treacherous exit channel.
Together, as a Zone, the EU has huge economic potential both in exports and as a trading destination. The common laws make it easier to do trade, movement if people and jobs is easier than ever before. But the depression has resulted in belt tightening and the very strengths that worked for everyone in the good times, are now weak links. Disintegration would mean a disaster. There are massive financial implications, umpteen laws and rules that need change and reform to the extent of reintroducing offices and factories that were cut to reduce costs. Infrastructural changes take their own time and come with a price tag. While such investments raise the prospects of jobs, the market for the output is as important a factor given the onward march of robotics and the impending invasion of artificial intelligence (AI).
Elections in many countries due within a year or so could also have a decisive impact. The rise of right-wing nationalism has many concerned. The Netherlands have decided to keep faith in centrism, France is likely to see nationalist gain purchase but not enough to win but Poland, Hungary are vocal of the EU bureaucracy. Most countries have taken loans that are proving difficult to pay and Germany has footed most of such bills. And if it should dig its heels in, there will be hell to pay.


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