Reasons to be cheerful about euro zone crisis
There, as here, a politics of fairness prevails: the Finnish debate is framed at political and popular levels on resentment over being asked to pay for southern profligacy. But the actual cost is greatly exaggerated – Finland has lent €1 billion to Greece and has already received €53 million interest on the loan – and the alternative costs to its economy of the Lehman’s collapse are far greater than that.
Stubb decries any new Berlin walls in Europe between northern creditors and southern debtors, recalling the roles were reversed 15 years ago. Common policies can work throughout the EU. As an academic expert in “differentiated integration”, he supports the idea that not all member states in an enlarged union have the will or ability to travel at the same speed or even to the same destination.
Variability and flexibility will be called for so long as the basic common elements – the single market, trade, agriculture and competition – are not affected. Differentiation will develop between those in the euro and those not, just as in the Schengen travel system or security and defence. He worries about the direction of British policy, fearing the loss of its influence and alliances on countries like his own and hoping they will resolve this strategic dilemma.
Deeper political union is a major emergent issue this autumn, including possible further federalisation. Stubb sees the EU as much more than an inter-governmental organisation but less than a state; even if it does have federal elements like qualified majority voting it will never become a fully-fledged superstate.
He is reluctant on treaty change, though open to it. Politics can do a lot to reconnect political elites and citizens without this cumbersome process; in such a polity hybridity anyway ensures a perpetual debate on democratic legitimacy. He is also open to Barroso’s proposal that party groups nominate commission presidential candidates for the 2014 European Parliament elections and even to the idea that this position should be directly elected. Major programmes like health and education will remain national competences. He rules out debt mutualisation or eurobonds as an incentive to bad economic management.
The French finance minister Pierre Moscovici’s fascinating proposal for a counter-cyclical unemployment insurance scheme is described as a typical socialist idea. So there is little scope for large-scale transfers.
That displays his own (undisguised) political bias. But it also illustrates the huge political issues at stake in this autumn’s debate on the EU’s future.