Narratives of the European Crisis and the Future of (Social) Europe

By Tsoukala, Philomila | Texas International Law Journal, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Narratives of the European Crisis and the Future of (Social) Europe


Tsoukala, Philomila, Texas International Law Journal


SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION...................................................... 241

I. EXPLORING THE MORAL AND STRUCTURAL NARRATIVES ON THE CAUSES OF THE CRISIS ....................................................243

A. The Moral Narrative: P.I.I.G.S., Ants, and Grasshoppers .............243

B. Structural Stories: Who's the Grasshopper Now Dear Ant?.................. 247

C. The Role of the Different Narratives in the Solutions Devised (or Not) ....................................................251

II. DO GRASSHOPPERS NEED SPECIAL TREATMENT?: CONSIDERING THE FUTURE OF (SOCIAL) EUROPE ....................................................258

CONCLUSION ....................................................266

INTRODUCTION

I would like to start with a few words about the Texas International Law Journal Euro Crisis Symposium's (the Symposium) excellently minimalist but evocative poster, which captures the ambient atmosphere in European politics since the 200708 financial crisis (the crisis).1 Designed in what could perhaps be described as a gothic-influenced modernist style, the center of the poster is dominated by a blackgrey structure, strongly reminiscent of the European Central Bank's (ECB) building in Frankfurt, rising high toward a sky dominated by grey and white clouds. The cloud-like figures are perfect circles, darker in color as they grow bigger in size, immediately invoking the now familiar way of representing national debt burdens in some of the most popular graphics used in the press.2 The general mood is one of an approaching, if not fully-fledged, storm raging at the financial heart of Europe. Finally, not to be missed are the letters announcing the Symposium, inscribed in Star Wars-like fonts, hinting at academia's deep connection with "the Force"- and hence a potential solution rising from Europe's own technocratic core. Beyond illustrating the general ambience surrounding the crisis, the Symposium poster also helps highlight two distinct underlying narratives about causes of- and therefore solutions to- the crisis, on which I would like to concentrate my comments. One could see the darkening clouds or debt burdens of the member states as the reason for the ECBlike figure's darkness; or inversely, one could wonder about the role of this dark protagonist in generating the clouds now dominating the background.

During the presentations at the Symposium we discussed the Stability and Growth Pact, its enforcement shortcomings, and potential solutions to these shortcomings, including the newly legislated six-pack.3 Furthermore, we discussedand some questioned- the need for increased financial regulation, the legality of a potential euro exit, as well as the risks entailed in some of the bank bailouts engineered by several member states' governments in the aftermath of the crisis.4 What I would like to do here is provide an analysis of two distinct types of narratives, circulating in both popular and academic press, about the causes and therefore the solutions, to the crisis. Each type of narrative entails different understandings of the role of member states and the European Union (EU) itself in the production of the crisis. Are the member states' debt clouds to blame for the darkness of the ECB-like structure at the center of the poster? Or does the figure itself have something to do with the production of the clouds? Like all good stories, each narrative has victims and culprits, villains and protagonists, and each one suggests distinct approaches towards finding potential solutions- happy endings.

In the first part of my Article, I will present two types of narratives. In the first category, the crisis appears to be the result of member states failing to fulfill treaty obligations because of their ballooning welfare states, causing a cascade effect for the rest. In the second category, member states fail in their obligations, but are themselves the victims of structural defects in the very design of the euro zone, or at the very least structural forces due to the design of the euro. …

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