Now that, at least as far as economists are concerned, the Great Recession is over, what should Western governments do to right their economic ships of state? According to columnist Wolfgang Munchau of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, Europe has even less of a clue about what to do than the United States – and neither has a strategy to address well-founded public anger and suspicion.
For the Financial Times Deutschland, columnist Wolfgang Munchau writes in part:
Recently, a colleague from outside Europe wrote to me after having conducted a series of interviews with top European Union politicians. He was struck by the extremely aggressive tone toward the U.S., toward China and particularly internally, France for example. In view of how European diplomacy is much vaunted abroad, this came as a surprise. That one would endure such brusque utterances in Berlin would surprise no one, but in mild, outward-oriented Brussels?
Our financial crisis, which is now over three years old, has gone through various phases. Now we’re experiencing exactly the same thing in politics. After the shock phase and hyperactive bailout phase, we’ve now reached the anger phase. We are familiar with this phenomenon from psychology, which describes the stages of grief and other trauma. Anger comes at a late stage, when one becomes aware of one’s impotence – which is precisely what happened to Messrs. Barroso and Sarkozy and a host of other actors that are part of the Brussels power center.
Overwhelmed and underprepared, European policy is short-circuiting with increasing frequency. We threaten China with trade sanctions but have completely forgotten to develop a coherent trade and economic strategy for China in the first place.
Where is German strategy given China’s emergence?
It’s one of the most striking differences between Washington and Brussels: U.S. politicians and experts show a very strong interest in trade and monetary policy and frequently discuss the topic at conferences. Here in Europe, we rarely have such discussions – not even behind closed doors.
And now an intelligent policy must be quickly implemented: one that forces the recapitalization of the banking sector, devises a consistent approach to the exchange rate policies of the Chinese and Japanese, advances the restructuring of international organizations, offers solutions for the fight against global and regional imbalances, and coordinates policy so that economic recovery doesn’t come to a halt. And at the same time, skeptical voters must be convinced of the value of the endeavor. The combination of inactivity and anger makes this task increasingly difficult.
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