The Eurozone Crisis and Europe’s Persistent ‘No-Demos Problem’

By PETER LINDSETH

As usual, things are moving so quickly in the Eurozone crisis that pressing controversies one day seemingly become old news the next. In the lead up to this week’s EU summit, for example, Germany caused a stir by calling for the appointment of an external commissioner with the power to veto the Greek budget because of Greece’s inability to meet its budgetary commitments. We’ll see where that leads, but outrage in Athens was the predictable result. The Greek finance minister reportedly said: ‘Whoever puts before a people the dilemma of choosing between financial assistance and national dignity disregards basic historical lessons’. In the overheated world of contemporary Eurozone commentary, one observer called the proposal ‘Anschluss economics’.

But as readers of this blog well know, Germany has its own worries about the Eurozone crisis and what it portends for that country’s own historically hard-won democracy. These worries arguably animate, for example, the recent jurisprudence of the German Federal Constitutional Court, as some of my earlier posts have outlined. From the German perspective, recourse to Eurobonds as a means of addressing the crisis (in which other member states might add to Germany’s debt obligations without a vote of the national parliament) would almost certainly be seen by the Court as a violation of the Bundestag’s historical control over the national purse, and therefore also an affront to the democratic identity of the German constitution.

These two contrasting (Greek and German) expressions of concern over the fate of national democracy in the face of the current crisis, however, are suggestive of a deeper challenge for European integration. I am referring not merely to the Eurozone’s seeming lack of financial solidarity among its member states—that, in fact, is merely a symptom ...

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