In Europe We Distrust

Discipline and morality may well be key to reinforcing trust and credibility to Europe’s social fabric – a point that northern Europeans never tire of making. But, unless all Europeans accept responsibility for saving the euro – and, with it, the EU – everything else is shallow rhetoric.

MADRID – For decades, critics of the European Union have spoken about a democratic deficit. I never accepted that reproach of the EU and its institutions, but I do see a new and dangerous deficit within the Union – a trust deficit, both among governments, and among the citizens of various member countries. Indeed, if today’s euro banknotes included a motto, as dollars do, it could well be, “In Europe We Distrust.”

This lack of trust has brought the eurozone to the cusp of implosion, and is calling into question the very future of European unity. The arc of EU history seems to be bending to catastrophe – the sort of periodic European disaster that integration was intended to prevent. Grandiloquent as it might sound, the disintegration of the euro and the disarray that would engulf the European project, not to speak of the global repercussions, would unleash comparable devastation.

But few official pronouncements, let alone policies, are addressing Europe’s deficit of trust and credibility. The current crisis has exposed the original lacunae and widening cracks in the compact between Europe’s citizens and EU institutions, between Europe’s north and south, and between its peoples and its elites.

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