Much talk over the EU summit this week. The future of Europe hangs in the balance:
Yet this would leave vitally important questions about Europe’s future unanswered or even unaddressed. The depth of the crisis and the ineptitude of the EU’s collective leadership — if one can call it “leadership” — have conflated three distinct issues. Keep each separately in mind when asking, “Is this deal of any use?”
The first is how to stabilize Europe’s economy. The second is how to avoid a similar breakdown next time. Even more important is a third question, one that Europe’s leaders invariably ignore: how to secure the right of Europe’s citizens to hold their governments to account.
The nuttiest aspect of the current talks has been Germany’s insistence that the second question comes first. Conceivably, I grant you, this could make sense. You might say, for instance, that to lessen any future moral hazard, Italy’s debts should never be underwritten by the EU as a whole. That idea would be wrong, but it would at least be intelligible. And it would answer questions one and two together: no bailouts, now or in the future.