Monday, August 6, 2012

Monti's Anti-Democratic Remarks Provoke German Ire

Mario Monti has provoked the wrath of the Valkyries. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he told the Germans that he thinks the euro crisis could be solved if only governments would show some healthy independence from their legislatures--an unsurprising thought for the technocrat that Monti is. But to many this sounded like a clarion call for an anti-democratic Europe and brought immediate denunciations.

And France, meanwhile? To my astonishment, Le Monde online breathes not a word of this whole controversy. Indeed, since Hollande's election, France has become the most nombriliste country in Europe. Despite being at the heart of the eurozone, it seems remarkably insouciant about the unfolding crisis. The troubles in the south have sent a lot of capital seeking safe haven to France; France's immediate borrowing worries are alleviated; and the French attitude seems to be Alfred E. Neuman's, "What, me worry?" It's baffling, really. To be sure, Hollande's low-key approach to governance seems to have been taken by many as the key to the success of his first three months--if success is measured as the passage of a number of measures without major opposition. But where is the French government on the euro? Far from leading the anti-austerity coalition, as he was expected to do, Hollande has ceded that role to Monti, who lacks the legitimacy that Hollande has. Is it any wonder that anti-austerity has taken an anti-democratic direction? This is worrisome.


Anonymous said...

One hopes that Hollande has consciously decided to devote the period until September to shoring up support and not creating domestic enemies. Then in the fall, he can act more boldly on the international level, in part because many players within France and across Europe will be begging him to.

But t's indeterminate at this stage: he might very well just completely lack vision and courage.

Mitch Guthman said...

I’m not sure which of Monti’s remarks it was that set the Germans off. He’s been clear in many past interviews both that the euro crisis is resurrecting the very tensions that the common market and the European Union were supposed to finally put to rest and that it will probably be necessary to choose between saving the European Union and the euro. Clearly, he doesn’t give a good goddam about democracy and would rather save the euro but this should’t be a surprise because he is, after all, essentially the viceroy appointed by Germany and the ECB to run Italy. At least he’s honest about his antidemocratic tendencies.

As for Hollande’s options, I’m not sure in what way the will improve over time. Indeed, as the situation worsens over time and the crisis intensifies it seems to me that Hollande and France will have less, rather than more, room to maneuver.

It is the structure of the EU and the euro that is at the heart of the problem. If these issues are not and cannot be addressed, then Europe will either disintegrate or submit to the technocrats who control the key institutions of the EU.

The ECB, for example, is guaranteed its independence and it has made clear, time and time again, that its commitment to austerity and the “artificial gold standard” is absolute. The ECB will refuse to function as a normal central unless all the countries of Europe rigidly adhere to austerity no matter how destructive and foolish those polices may be. No matter how many ordinary Europeans oppose those policies.

The ECB’s independence means that it has tremendous power over the lives of Europeans without accountability. If he can’t take control of the ECB, then Hollande can really do nothing unless France is prepared to leave the euro or the EU (or perhaps even both).

Anonymous said...

Objection ! Hollande is a wise politician, and that should not be considered as a weakness in this Euro crisis. He has decided to let Monti, Draghi and Rajoy on the front line (but not without talking to them regularly) so as to remain available and fresh as a mediator when the violent fight with Germany takes place, probably in September when Greece is expelled from Eurozone (which is obviously the German plan now).

FrédéricLN said...

I would think Hollande dedicated these 4 first months to a "proof by contradiction" that Montebourg's (and the left of the left's) approach of "redressement productif" lacks any substance.

In order to be able to start, from October on, some serious "redressement" policy. But which one? Does he even know?

BTW, De Gaulle used his 7 first months in 1958 to build the Rueff group, get a safeguard plan built and delivered (end of December). I can't see the very beginning of it. But, well, I'm on holidays.