All the commentators on the crisis in the Eurozone agree on one point: the lack of incisive European economic and political leadership continues to play a key role in the climate of instability that has threatened the single currency and even the European project.
If our readers are to be believed, none of the current crop of European leaders (at least none of those cited by our poll on the issue) has the ability to guide Europe through the storm. The highest scorer, Angela Merkel, appears to reluctant to assume a level of responsibility in line with the economic and demographic — and thus political — weight of her country. The President of the European Central Bank, who is the second ranked figure, has limited room for manoeuvre and does not have the power to take political decisions. The leader who appears to be most determined to take the initiative, Nicolas Sarkozy, is unable to do so alone. Lastly, Herman Van Rompuy, who actually has European leadership built into his job description, has neither the means or the authority to assume this task.
As a result, everyone is doing what they can to preserve the Union and keep the single currency afloat, though none of this effort has had much in the way of impact on financial markets. The "royal couple" has attempted to reassure investors with pledges of more economic and political integration, but the response from the markets has remained lukewarm.
Although it has shown some willingness to take the initiative in a Europe which appears to be paralysed, the Franco-German "motor" lacks the democratic legitimacy that would give its proposals the necessary clout within the EU. Only a federal European government, whose members have been elected by universal suffrage, would have this power. And if such an institution eventually sees the light of day, the present situation will have had the merit of highlighting the need to move forward with such a project. The ordeal may even have been worth it; but only if the euro succeeds in surviving the current crisis.
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