The Ulf Nilson column in Nordstjernan, December 2011
The question hangs like the sword of Damocles over the old continent. The currency that was to unify Europe and, in a sense, liberate us all, has become a burden. The reasons are principally two:
One: The countries of Europe differ a lot from one another. France and Greece and Portugal are very different in political structure, customs and attitudes. A debt in Greece is not the same thing as a debt in Spain, not to mention Germany. And so on.
Two: The euro is too loosely constructed. It is, in reality, hardly managed at all from the center. In other words, the economic government that Europe so badly needs does not exist and will not come into being unless the 17 euro-countries start working at it at top speed all at once—which will not happen.
It should be noted here that Sweden is not a member of the European monetary union. The EU, yes, but the EMU, no—we stay with the krona (and the possibility, often used, to devalue and make our products cheaper to other countries).
The great risk, right now, is that the more and more frantic attempts to solve the crisis rather make it worse. The most important country, Germany, is in good shape (at least compared to many others), but the Germans are neither able nor willing to bail out the others. That means that countries such as Greece may have to leave the euro, dragging many others with it. In fact a collapse of the common currency is not unthinkable.
If worse comes to worst—and it is possible!—Europe will experience the worst crisis since the 1930s. There will be bankruptcies, unemployment and, at least for a while, economic paralysis. Some countries, again Germany and perhaps Sweden, will manage relatively well, but nobody, absolutely nobody will escape without being hit. In some countries in the south of the continent there will be violent protests. Governments will fall and extreme politicians will no doubt make the situation worse.
So, it is fair to say that the Christmas season this year will be like nothing we have seen in a long, long time. The attempt to unite Europe—we talked for a while of the United States of Europe—has failed. It has failed mainly because one thought it would be possible to make it on the cheap, with everybody continuing as before, without a strong central authority. Everybody would go on just like before and everything would arrange itself according to, well, not the plan, but the lack of plan.
Of course that wasn't possible and now we ordinary Europeans dare hardly turn on radio or television, not wanting to hear that Christmas 2011 will be the Christmas of crisis, when we all got poorer.
All this could have been avoided if the euro had been better prepared. It was not. And here we are.…