21st May 2019

EU president issues 'plea for Euroland'

EU Council President Herman van Rompuy has issued an public appeal for people and markets not to be so "pessimistic" about the state of the European Union, urging that the current crisis be approached with "serenity" instead.

In a speech to a think-tank in Brussels, the self-styled 'grey mouse' of EU leadership warned: "Whoever wants to judge the state of the Union has to regain a certain distance, a certain serenity and above all: a sense of proportions. Pessimism paralyses action."

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He complained that the eurozone is seen "as some sort of patient of the world economy", and fretted that part of the current strife is being caused by the word used to describe the 17 countries that employ the single currency.

"Words like 'eurozone' - which sounds distant like some industrial zone, somewhere outside the city's centre - make it worse," he said, and went on to propose that a different word be used instead: "Euroland".

"We must start to be more explicit about what a monetary union means. It means we are in 'Euroland'. Sharing a currency means we are in one country, at least monetarily speaking. That makes it much clearer why the decisions of one, affect all! We simply cannot have one currency and 17 divergent policies."

The speech, entitled 'A Plea for Euroland' acknowledged that "the past few days were and are difficult and worrisome."

But citizens must look on the bright side, he insisted, pointing out that the average public deficit in the eurozone is lower than in the US, the UK, and Japan and that the economic recovery is delivering forecast growth close to two percent this year and next.

He also added that other states are still eager to join the Union: "As long as a club gets new members, it is not in bad shape."

He noted that Croatia is soon to become the 28th member state and that Serbia has "made a big step towards realising its European perspective" with the arrest of Ratko Mladic, which he described as a victory for European diplomacy.

He did not however mention accession candidate Iceland's current strong popular opposition to joining the club.

He then went on to pooh-pooh suggestions that European foreign policy and Europe's internal borderless zone were also in crisis.

"When Germany abstains in a vote in the UN Security Council on Libya, we were all of a sudden without foreign policy," he said, pointing out that just days later, all the key European states backed military action against the north African country.

"This absolutely cannot be compared with the divisions at the time of the Iraq war," he insisted.

Speaking of the Arab Spring, he also said that in the north Africa and the Middle East, the democratic flowering will not continue without the role the bloc is playing. "Without us there will be a Spring, but not a Summer."

He did however say that he did "not want to give just a rosy picture," and said that both the solving the crisis of the Schengen borderless zone and the single currency would require "political determination."

He also issued a call for politicians to abandon partisan politics and construct a national unity government in Greece, echoing similar demands by EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn made the same day.

"I call on the Greek government and all Greek political and economic leaders to take their responsibility. This is no time for party politics. Too much is at stake," he said.

He finished off his speech with another call for optimism, saying that the governments of Greece, Ireland and Portugal are showing great courage.

"I see the required courageous political leadership in the countries with reform programs. My appeal now is to persevere.

He then used his newly coined term for the eurozone a second time.

"And, just as importantly, I also see it in the countries having to convince their public opinions to step in with loans and show solidarity with their fellow citizens of Euroland."


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