Europe in Reverse

BERLIN – The legendary American investor Warren Buffet once said, “It’s when the tide goes out that you find out who has been swimming naked.” That particular piece of wisdom referred to the situation of companies in an economic crisis. But it can also be applied to countries and economies.

In Europe, the situation is cause for growing concern, because the global economic crisis is relentlessly laying bare the European Union’s flaws and limitations. Indeed, what Europe lost, first and foremost, with the rejection of the constitutional treaty is now obvious: its faith in itself and its common future.

Amid this worst crisis since 1929, America has opted for a truly new beginning with the election of Barack Obama, and is now in the process of reinventing itself. By contrast, each passing day seems to drive EU members further apart. Rather than reinventing itself, Europe, under the pressure of the crisis and its own internal contradictions, threatens to revert to the national egoism and protectionism of the past.

Europe today has a common currency and the European Central Bank (ECB), which have proven to be bulwarks in defending monetary stability during the financial crisis. Any weakening of these two institutions would cause severe damage to common European interests. But EU member governments’ behavior during the past few months raises grave doubts about whether they see things this way.