The recent European Parliament election results revealed a reality that is uncomfortable and challenging both politically and socioeconomically. At the political level, we are witnessing in practice the rise of euroscepticism, nationalism and anti-Europeanism.
At the socio-economic level, inequalities among and within Member States are evident, demonstrable and rising. Considerable institutional deficiencies, high rates of unemployment, slow growth and a gradual weakening of its geopolitical power and significance (compared to other strategic players), are clear, present and undeniable threats.
The EU is a project unprecedented in the history of politics. No one ever expected its governance to be easy.
28 countries have to reach balance of power and interests within three leading institutions: The Council, the Parliament and the Commission.
However, what everybody knows very well is that the EU governance is now very important for the future of Europe but also for each member-state separately.
Anna Diamantopoulou's article for the Friends of Europe's tenth annual high-level roundtable The State of Europe: Tough choices for a troubled Europe
Anna Diamantopoulou’s article which appears on the special section ‘Europe in 25 years’ in the Autumn issue of Europe's World.
“No single EU country can any longer act alone as an economic or political power – even Europe’s largest economies”
Published on October 1, 2013
Anna Diamantopoulou participated in the Conference on Progressive Governance entitled "Towards Growth and Shared Prosperity". The panel participants who spoke:
Joel Benenson, American pollster and founder, Benenson Strategy Group. Obama’s lead pollster, guided presidential campaign 2008.
Olaf Cramme (Chair), director of Policy Network
Gordon Bajnai, leader of “Together 2014” and former prime minister of Hungary. Former head of National Development agency, minister of Ministry of Local Government and minister at the ministry of National Development and Economic Affairs.
Martien Kuitenbrouwer, Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) president, District Council of West Amsterdam
Marlon Marshall, former deputy national field director, Obama 2012
Dear Mr President,
In this critical moment where European’s edifice fabric may be tearing apart, the leaders' voice of Europeans should be heard. A public intervention by the committed Europeans, by those who had have served the vision of a united Europe united and guided by justice, discipline and solidarity, is of paramount importance for the future of Europe and for the prosperity of its people.
A declaration that reaffirms the vision and renews the mission for a united Europe, proposing along the means for reaching that goal, seems that it can only come from those leaders without the anxiety of re-election and no interest in playing a leading role in today's European scenario of "Cramer vs. Cramer", nation against nation, north vs south, centre vs. periphery.
The catalytic role of President Delors in the creation of the single market with a social agenda and the preparation of the monetary union, along with your decisive contribution to the introduction of the euro and the largest ever enlargement of the Community, justify and necessitate such an initiative.
We have the duty to stop NOW this new version of a paneuropean war flamed by the galloping progress of populism and nationalism, with their distinct characteristics in each country. To stop the risk of dismantling the most noble and genuine accomplishment of Europe’s political history: the union of national states through solely democratic procedures.
I am confident that politicians who are committed to the European ideal, today that anti-Europeanism spreads rapidly and may become the prevailing view, are ready to mobilize and support such an initiative. I feel compelled to reiterate the closing paragraph of my 2012 letter under the title "Europe SOS" :
“Let us move now by strengthening the voices of significant European leaders and dignitaries by creating a movement for the soul of Europe, “Europe SOS”, for the reversal of our course, for extinguishing ongoing threats, offering a common perspective and securing our collective future before it is too late.
The time for initiative is NOW. Let us seize it.”
Anna Diamantopoulou had a speech in Nicosia 30/01/2013 at an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Cyprous and the Greek Association for the Modernization of our society (OPEC) on: "The crisis as a lesson for future"
Also spoke at the event, Mr. Christopher Pissarides, Nobel laureate, Professor of Economics at LSE, on "Austerity and Restructuring: The lesson was ignored"
Anna Diamantopoulou participated on February 15, in the Conference on "Social and employment policies for a fair and competitive Europe", held in Dublin. The conference was organized by "Eurofound", a competent authority of the EU to improve living and working conditions in EU.
Mrs Diamantopoulou chaired the panel discussion on "Inclusive growth: What future for the European Social Model?"
Bernadette Segol, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
Renate Hornung-Draus, Managing Director, European and International Affairs, BDA and Chair, Social Affairs Committee, BusinessEurope
Staffan Nilsson, President, European Economic and Social Committee EESC
Guthner Schmid, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, Free University of Berlin and Director Emeritus, Social Science Researce Center Berlin, WZB.
In a public address on Europe’s imminent choices, former EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou offered a sobering analysis of the origins of Europe’s crisis and sketched a new narrative necessary to ensure European cohesion. She highlighted the lessons her country, Greece, had learned from the crisis and pointed to new opportunities for growth, as part of her Fisher Family Fellow speech on October 23, 2012.
Praising the US for its handling of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, Diamantopoulou pointed to the lack of a banking and fiscal union in Europe, which had made addressing the effects of the crisis in 2008 particularly difficult. The European Union had devised ad hoc mechanisms to bail out those member states that could not borrow at reasonable interest rates: Greece first, then Portugal and Ireland. These mechanisms had been the result of tense bargaining around Brussels’ negotiation tables, which had tested the unity of the Eurozone. The impression that the protracted negotiations had left on the rest of the world was that these responses were overall “too little, too late.” She was optimistic that the more flexible final procedures would ultimately result in greater integration: the creation of a banking and fiscal union and increased efforts to complete the economic and political union.
Dissolution of the European Union now seems all but off the table, she noted. Too great were the implied costs and too threatening the loss for the global economy. She cited a Prognos study, whereby the departure of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy from the European Union would result in a $22.3 trillion growth loss for the world economy. Already threatened by demographic decline that would leave the largest European countries at most at 1% of the world population by 2050, the EU’s political leaders needed to define a new vision for Europe to ensure its continued global relevance.
Europe needed new leadership and a new project, she said. This, however, could not be a single-nation enterprise. Germany, the largest economy in the Union and most probable leading country, was an “isolated giant.” She recommended German leadership use its leading position to build consensus and convince governments and European citizens of the necessity of the European enterprise. Germany would need to approach its role at the heart of Europe using a different paradigm: one of solidarity, discipline and vision, instead of dictating rules and engaging in finger-pointing. As of yet, she was unable to detect this necessary shift in the German government: it seemed to be guided more by internal electoral considerations and less by a long-term vision of Europe, which was “essential for Germany itself.”
Key to reinvigorating a European vision of the future was a new narrative. This had to incorporate five elements: advocacy of and pride in peace – the Union’s greatest achievement – and respect for nations and people; the definition of a new geopolitical role that included military strength and soft power; increased internal democracy, with a new treaty and greater democratic legitimacy in its own decision making; greater economic equality and finally, a better mechanisms to increase competitiveness and share the Union’s growth. European governments had to be willing to assume leadership to craft this narrative, but its institutions were similarly responsible. The ECB and the core European institutions had to work together to design a fiscal stimulus project similar to that implemented in the US. Perpetual austerity, she warned, would not produce growth. European leadership had to “inspire citizens with vision and deeds.”
She advocated for a “new kind of global understanding and cooperation,” to avoid a prolonged slump. Global growth would return as confidence in the European markets returned, she noted, echoing a recent article by former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Greece in recovery
The crisis had demanded that her own country, Greece, make rapid fiscal adjustments. This had led to high levels of unemployment and an overall rise of poverty, threatening basic aspects of every day life, Diamantopoulou said. This uncertainty was giving rise to opposition movements on the democratic fringe: for example, Golden Dawn, an avowed neo-Nazi party was voted into the country’s parliament at the last election. “I am serious when I talk about a threat to democracy – it is also a threat for the stability in the Balkans and the viability of the European unification process,” she added.
Europe needed to initiate a “New Deal” for growth on its periphery. This would lend additional heft to the measures introduced by the current three-party coalition government in Greece that reformed taxation and the public sector. “Greek society needs relief, reform and recovery – just as was the case in the United States in 1933,” she said.
Lessons from the crisis
In the last part of her presentation, Commissioner Diamantopoulou reflected on lessons learned from the crisis. “The Greek adjustment program had important flaws,” she said. The Troika had set overly ambitious targets, which meant Greece could not but fall short of achieving them. Original predictions by the Troika had assumed that Greece would be able to borrow on the international market at reasonable interest rates by now. “We are far from that,” she noted. Greece could not be compared to a corporate restructuring project. “A whole people cannot be made to follow orders, as if they were employees.”
While European leaders had not facilitated the task of the Greek political elite by speculating on a Greek exit from the Euro, the Greek government had failed to see the depth and breadth of the problem at the outset. “We thus proceeded leisurely at the onset of the crisis and later postponed tough decisions. Most ministers refused to assume ownership of the reform programs they were instituting and measures introduced were often socially unjust, while in some cases failing to fulfill their objectives.”
Four lessons were now obvious: In a crisis of this magnitude one had to act immediately; implement the toughest measures right away; convey ownership to win over the ‘hearts-and-minds’ and communicate openly with the public to sustain this support. “One must pick goals that project national pride and increase social justice,” she said. She hoped the current Greek government had learned these lessons and would be able to – in the long-term – renew a country, which had “immense potential.”
Her Tribune is based on several key issues:
1. Measures and funding for growth
2. A stable outlook
3. Debt sustainability
4. Liquidity and financing
5. Initiating investment
6. A framework to attract private investment
7. Human resources policies
She thinks that the European economy will not return to growth with austerity and structural reforms alone. What is needed is a new path of growth and solidarity.