Europe’s Federalist Future

After two years of vacillation, European policymakers have moved decisively toward economic and political union, leaving many to wonder whether more integration is really necessary. Two factors are crucial to answering this question, both of which center on ensuring European future stability – in the short- and long-term.

WASHINGTON, DC – A quiet breakthrough occurred recently in Europe. After more than two years of vacillation, policymakers have moved decisively toward economic and political union. Some have even used the “f-word” – federalism – igniting controversy and fueling urgently needed debate.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has decided to use the ECB’s considerable firepower as a financial backstop for indebted eurozone countries. Additional plans aimed at increasing eurozone countries’ accountability and effectiveness have followed, including a Europe-wide banking union, a common eurozone budget, limited debt mutualization (such as Eurobonds), and even a eurozone parliament separate from the existing European Union parliament. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso capped off the developments with a dramatic – even historic – speech, in which he called for a “federation of nation-states.”

But Europe’s new course has left many wondering whether more integration is really necessary. Reacting to the global economic crisis and the perils of austerity is a complex issue for Europeans. Although economists and commentators have tended to view austerity in the United States and Europe through the same lens, conditions in the world’s two largest economic areas are very different.

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