One step forward…

To pick up on the theme of last week’s post, I have been thinking more about the message that the installation of technocrat governments in Greece and Italy sends out.

On the one hand, such a move clearly reassures the financial markets about the determination of those countries to formulate and implement more radical austerity measures.  It also allows those countries to demonstrate to their European counterparts that they are pulling their weight in addressing the eurozone crisis, reopening some of the political room for manoeuvre that has closed down in recent weeks.

At the same time, it once again serves to underline the difficulties of democracy within the European Union.  Talk of the EU or foreign governments ‘demanding’ the installation of new leaders, or the ‘imposition’ thereof, suggests a system much like the Concert of Europe, where the powerful decide and the weak meekly follow.

In large part, this is the result of conflicting short- and long-term objectives.  Right now, what is needed is stability and authority; looking out beyond that, the continuing democratisation debate that the EU has had since Maastricht speaks to accountability and legitimacy.  All of these values are desirable, but if we are not careful, then we risk compromising the long future with the efforts to resolve the current problems.  It is over-egging things to recall the descent into fascism that followed the Great Depression in the 1920-30s, but as one central-banker noted last week, ““From the middle of a crisis, you can see how easy it is to make mistakes.”