Sunday 22 October 2017

Smothered by our own blanket guarantee

Europe needs to learn from its bad choices and transform itself into a true monetary union

Activists wearing masks depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande protest in Brussels
Activists wearing masks depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande protest in Brussels
Philippe Legrain
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

Given the profound alteration in Ireland's relationship with Europe since the last European elections in 1979, it is unfortunate that media coverage of the poll due on May 23 has consisted largely of parochial speculation about who will win in each constituency, a matter of no importance to anyone other than the candidates and their supporters.

There has been no discussion of party positions on European issues, since there appear to be none. There is no greater European issue than the failure of the common currency experiment and the continuing unwillingness to take the measures necessary to avoid a repetition. Not one Irish party has offered a vision of what a future European monetary union should look like, campaigning instead on complaints about austerity and unsupported promises of better jobs, decent wages and free water.

There are serious issues aplenty. In his recent book*, Philippe Legrain argues that the handling of the eurozone crisis by the EU Commission, and particularly by the European Central Bank, has been inept, deeply politicised and damaging to the broader European project. He is no eurosceptic; indeed his strictures are the more compelling because his concerns are those of a supporter of European integration. Legrain is particularly scathing about the actions of the European Central Bank under the presidency of Jean-Claude Trichet, including its dealings with Ireland.

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