So — at last — Greece, the Eurozone and the IMF have reached an agreement and, if it holds up, money will start flowing. But how many times have we heard that delayed promise as we witnessed the sorry sight of European politicians dealing with crisis. It has left many wondering whether the system is too cumbersome and not fit for purpose.
In the past year the EU has had several opportunities to prove it is up to the job. In each case its efforts have been at best inelegant, at worst incompetent.
Let’s start with handling of the volcanic ash incident which showed how inefficient the EU can be when dealing with a pan-European crisis. Airspace is still the province of national governments, and it took nearly a week before there was even the first video conference of European transport ministers to discuss what should be done. Surely perforce, the politicians should have acted with more vigor
It was left to individual airlines like Air France/KLM, Lufthansa and BA along with IATA, to send up planes to prove that it was safe to fly. All the while the European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas bleated on about this being a “European problem” requiring a “European solution”. Thankfully national aviation authorities decided to get on with job. If it had been left to Mr. Kallas we probably would still be seeking that “European solution.”
The second, and potentially more worrying issue is the financial crisis facing Greece: The very sort of financial calamity the Euro single currency was supposed to have prevented.
The crisis began at the end of last year. In February European finance ministers pledged support where the stability of the euro was at stake. On to late March and the European leaders agree a bailout as a last resort. Only now is it starting to become clear when the money will start to flow.
Yet still no-one can tell me who is the decision maker; who is in charge; who calls the shots.
Winston Churchill said no-one who likes laws or sausages should see how either are made. Unfortunately that’s what we’re seeing in Europe right now. It’s making up the rules as it goes along — and it’s a messy business.
It’s like the United States in late 18th Century, during the years when the newly created country declared independence, adopted a constitution and then had to discover how the whole thing worked in practice.
Europe is now similarly engaged but in an era where decision making has to be quicker and news analysis of failure is instant.
Unfortunately European government is far from pellucid and its stumblings are obvious. With all this in mind, the only question is how much worse these crises become, owing to Europe’s failure to act sooner.
Tune in to Richard Quest each weekday at 9 pm Cairo (9 pm Kuwait, 9 pm Riyadh, 10 pm Dubai) on Quest Means Business. For more information go to www.cnn.com/qmb.