Zielonka fears that the EU may well be doomed because “interdependence no longer generates integration but instead prompts disintegration.” His expectation is that the single European currency will prove to have been an error of historic proportions, achieving precisely the opposite of what its founders intended.
Nobody should deny the inadequate institutional structure with which the euro was originally endowed, nor the mistakes made by national leaders in their attempts to wrestle with the sovereign debt crisis and the systemic crisis for the euro provoked by it. Zielonka has some vigorous criticism, particularly for the German government which he believes acted with “its domestic rather than European public in mind.” Nor does Zielonka believe that the errors of the German and other governments, are likely to be rectified in the foreseeable future. He believes that the eurozone’s underlying problems can only be resolved by a much more integrative or federalist structure for the single European currency. But as national governments and their electorates are not willing to embrace such solutions, he believes that only much looser forms of European association are politically and economically sustainable.
Zielonka’s analysis and predictions may turn out to be correct. The crisis of the eurozone has certainly subjected the EU to unprecedented political and economic strains. It must not, however, be forgotten that the Union has weathered these strains a great deal better than many commentators were predicting five years ago. Reluctantly, and more slowly and less completely than they should have done, Europe’s leaders have moved a long way over that period towards further economic and political integration. This dynamic process will undoubtedly continue.
There is much further to go down this integrative path to ensure the euro’s long term stability and efficient functioning. But it would be wholly premature to assume that achieving this goal is impossible. The problems of the euro have been the fundamental reason for the decline in the Union’s popularity. At least as plausible as Zielonka’s gloomy prognosis is the possibility that the success of the euro in the coming years would create a virtuous circle that makes closer political integration more congenial to Europe’s voters.