The Greek economy ended its four-year exile from international markets last week with a triumphant 3 billion euro (about $4.1 billion) bond sale. The global financial media trumpeted this somewhat unexpected achievement as a sign that things were finally turning around in the European Union’s most blighted country. Media reports to the contrary, Greece’s return to the market does nothing to resolve Greece’s systemic economic deficiencies. Instead, it enables Greece to build up more debt, which will leave it a permanent bailout state for the foreseeable future.
In any case, events in Athens, a city perennially destined to be a dependent on the great powers of any given time, will not be pivotal to the future of the European Union. Nor will decisions made in Spain, Italy or even France. Instead, the Continent’s fate in the 21st century will be decided in Germany. Germany stands increasingly alone as the guardian of the very European order that allowed it to prosper and quelled its historical insecurities about its neighbors.
Something as seemingly banal as a conversation at an Italian restaurant in Berlin does a much better job of illustrating how far Europe actually is from recovery, and how the fate of the Continent lies in Germany’s hands. In the first days of April, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere met with a group of scholars of constitutional law for dinner and discussion of the options for limiting the reach of Germany’s powerful Federal Constitutional Court. The meeting stands testament to the German fear of seeing the European order crumble and to the severity of the political crisis brewing under the surface in the Continent.
The Perils of Unemployment
Stratfor has warned for years that the economic downturn that began battering Europe in 2008 would evolve into a full-blown social and political crisis. Nearly six years have gone by, and the European system remains as dysfunctional today as it was then. Great Depression-levels of unemployment have become the norm in Southern Europe, and have begun to creep northward.
Growing numbers of the unemployed and underemployed are fertile ground for political radicalism. Now, hopelessness about the future of Europe is moving into the mainstream. In election after election from France to Hungary, nationalist and Euroskeptic parties continue to gain in popularity to the point that they are becoming entrenched parts of the political system.