The Euro’s Crisis of Democracy

FLORENCE – In the end, as always, Europe acted. But will it be enough?

Financial markets, no doubt, will be skeptical about the eurozone members’ solemn commitment that the de facto Greek default will remain the exception. Verbal assurances have been the European Union’s preferred currency in tackling the euro crisis, but words now have as little value as Greece’s sovereign debt.

It took more than a year for Europe to do what everyone knew needed to be done to contain the Greek crisis, and it still may not be enough. For the approved measures do not provide the transparent and long-term commitment to restoring Greek finances that markets want to see.

That is the nature of European politics. The EU acts only when it is pressed to the wall. And, when it finally does do the right thing, it pretends not to be doing it. The reason is that European Union politics is mostly national politics, which addresses national issues with a European dimension, but not European issues. The EU’s deep interdependence is lost in national politics, opening a gap between the scope and level of policies and where politics takes place. Europe’s democratic deficit is less a gap between European institutions and European citizens than between national politics and European problems.