Pathetic Europe

The financial and economic crisis has caused quite some damage around the world. Jobs were lost, wealth was lost, and money fled to wherever it seemed safe. Six years after the start of the crisis, many parts of the world have recovered from the damage done. The emerging economies were swift in their recovery and is now being followed by an American economy that is gathering pace as well. Only one “global” player stays behind and seems incredibly slow in its recovery: the European Union.

Pathetic Europe.

Unlike countries across the world, the crises of the past six years have shaken the EU beyond just economic damage. The Eurozone members felt the pain of having a common currency, but not having the possibility to devalue it when the need was most dire. Along with people not moving to where places where they were needed (i.e. labour immobility), this led to harsh austerity measures for struggling economies, giving them no room to breathe and heightening European contempt in those countries. The crisis made many question the legitimacy of the European Union, which led to extremist, anti-EU politicians and their parties gaining power in the EU (e.g. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marie Le Pen in France). Europe’s identity is lost, and the European Union is now slow, uncompetitive, technocratic, uncharismatic.

Those that have been hit particularly hard by the crises were young Europeans. This is evident in youth unemployment rates, which are over a whopping 50% in Spain and Greece and over 40% in Italy. Over half of the students that graduate in Spain or Greece cannot find a job. And do not think you’re safe because you’re not from one of above countries. Belgium: 24%, France: 25%, Portugal: 35%. These numbers might seem frightening, but you know what is even more frightening?

We’re not angry about it. We’re complacent about it. We’re complacent about not having jobs and we’re complacent about this European project. We let ourselves be called “The Lost Generation”. Are you kidding me? Those who created the Euro were too blind to see you cannot simply create a common currency when the adopting countries have their own fiscal policy and government, which then nearly blows up in their face during the crises, and then they call the victims The Lost Generation?

It’s an insult we’re being called this way. How can we put it with this? We’re not the Lost Generation, we are the Future of Europe. We should replace those technocrats at the top with passionate, young and strong individuals that can instil a sense of European identity (back?) into Europe. European countries are too entangled into the EU to let it disintegrate, we are too far ahead in the project to be able to step out of it.  So this generation has two choices:

1) We remain the continent shaken most by crises. We have living standards worse than our parents. We are not taken seriously globally and do not have a uniform voice in tackling issues that threaten entire Europe (e.g. Ukraine). We remain complacent and shrug our shoulders as technocrats and damp rags sail the ship deeper and deeper into the whirlpool.

2) We yell. We let ourselves be heard across all the platforms we have access to. We want an identity. We show that we can lead and have ideas, we grit our teeth and shout that the future of Europe is in our hands. We want more investment in education, because educated individuals should be our core competency. We want easier ways to start businesses, because 18,000 EUR to start something is too much (I’m looking at you, Belgium). We want less austerity measures on Southern economies, because choking an economy will not make it grow. We want countries to adhere to our entry rules, because being lax with rules to have more “land” does not make a stronger union. We want a stronger EU because it is the only way forward. Progress cannot be slow, because we are already behind on the others. It is time for us to stand up and believe in Europe, beautiful and strong in its diversity.

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3 comments

  1. I thought Geert Wilder’s party went from 24 to 15 seats in the last elections. Hardly a gain in power.

    As to youth unemployment – unemployment rates are a bit complicated, see http://www.voxeu.org/article/youth-unemployment-europe-it-s-actually-worse-us

    Oh and “emerging economies” are not that emerging after all – http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinas-economic-recovery-is-over-nomura-2013-10-18

    So things are not all black in Europe, I would say.

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  2. Thanks for your comment Michael!

    Geert Wilders did indeed fortunately lose power in the last elections. However, there is no denying that the European continent has voted more extremist right since the crisis.

    The numbers for youth unemployment might indeed be exaggerated because of many still in education, especially before 18. However, many do not pursue higher education and enter the workforce from 18 years old. A significant number of them cannot find work. You can also look at it the other way and say many working youths have only temporary contracts that will end in a year or less and cannot find permanent work.

    The argument that China is slowing down should be taken with a grain of salt. For an economy that has grown double-digit growth for an entire decade, it is inevitable to slow down. In terms of absolute numbers, a 5% increase in China’s GDP is a massive increase. Consider the US, where a GDP increase of 3% would be a very, very good increase. Of course, I do not deny challenges lie ahead for China to continue growing sustainable, but every economy faces challenges.

    I agree that things in Europe are not black at all. In fact, it is a very good place to live in. Belgium is a very good country to live in, and so is Austria, or Germany. But this is mainly the merit of the individual countries rather than the European Union. The EU is seen as a trading union, while we should all aspire to see it as more: as our identity.

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