Europe has not yet found the level of solidarity it needs to solve the region's problems and time currently being wasted will diminish the scope of Europe's future role. This was the view expressed by Romano Prodi, former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission from 1999-2004, when he spoke at a Continuous Education session today in Barcelona.
The session, titled "The Future Outlook and Challenges for Europe in Today's Context," was introduced by Dean Jordi Canals, who reminded the packed auditorium that Prodi had presided over both the introduction of the euro and the expansion of the EU to its present 27 member states.
Prodi believes Europe is being held back by what he calls the electoral agenda within the various member states. "With the euro we were prepared to give up some of our sovereignty, but not too much," he said. "We created a Europe with an insufficient change of power. It was not possible to go beyond it because of political opposition within member states."
Such interests allowed the Greek crisis to grow out of proportion, he said. The Greek crisis began as a small "ethical episode," he said. "It only represented 2 percent of Europe's GDP and it just involved moving some money to plug the gap." He said that former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl backed the euro, despite the overwhelming strength of the Deutschmark, because "he wanted a European Germany rather than a German Europe." Germany has to accept its responsibility within Europe. "At the moment Germany is too big for Europe and too small for the world."
The problem is not the debt of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, he said. Italy has the same level of debt now as it did when it entered the euro. The difference is the speculation in sovereign debt. Because of this, "it's no longer enough to bail out Greece. Spain and Italy are also under attack and they represent a lot more than 2 percent of the European economy." He added, however, that for its faults, it was not in the interests of either China or the United States to change the international monetary system.
He proposed the creation of a euro bond as a way of shoring up and protecting Europe's finances. He added that Europe needs a more intelligent policy for Greece. "We have set them tasks they can't deliver - Greece has done all it can, if it does any more it will die-"