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They Told You So

The once-ignored critics of economic and monetary union are being vindicated.

6:10 PM, Apr 28, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Having lived in Austria just as it was entering the European Union (1993-1994), I can tell you the charms of the EU were irresistable—all those pins and stickers and posters in deep blue with twelve golden stars arrayed in a circle! And the benefits: No more traffic jams at the border. Live in Germany, work in France, kein Problem! "Get on the train now or you're going to miss it," one student told me. And so Austria got on board. As a result, my leftover Schillings and Groschen have become worthless.

They Told You So

But now the critics of economic and monetary union are being vindicated—what with the crisis in Greece spreading to Spain. In yesterday's Financial Times, David Marsh cites Josef Joffe, then foreign editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, who at the time wrote, "Never in the history of democracy have so few debated so little about so momentous a transformation in the lives of men and women." Marsh points out Joffe's warnings were originally published in the New York Review of Books and "appeared in an abridged German translation in the Süddeutsche Zeitung more than a month later, unobtrusively buried in a weekend supplement."

Alarmingly, writes Marsh:

The episode illustrates past barriers to plain speaking about economic and monetary union (Emu). Many ordinary Germans always feared the euro would be less stable than the D-Mark. Yet, reflecting postwar belief that German interests ineluctably overlapped with Europe’s, there was little discussion of the risks. This went beyond Germany. One senior Dutch central banker, now retired, says most European governments—including his own—agreed [to] the Maastricht treaty 20 years ago without understanding what they had signed into law.

Hard to imagine any politician, really, arguing to pass a law in order to understand what's in it.

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