Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Europe Today: From Great Crises and Great Visions

Europe is not in a condition to think about great visions. It is busy with solving its debt crisis. One great discussion is if Eurobonds could or should be part of the solution. The European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Olli Rehn, spoke last week at the EU summit for a deeper integration as a precondition of a launch of such Eurobonds. With this he hit the nail on the head: Deeper integration. It is often said that Europe growths through crises. The idea is that during crises Europe is compelled to find steps leading towards a deeper integration which are necessary for its continued existence.
But is this only possible through crises? No. It is also possible through visions. A vision can be seen as a positive connoted motivation-factor for activities leading to more integration. Visions in this sense are the contrary of crises which are negative connoted motivation-factors. In contrast, a deeper integration is not a vision as such. It is more an objective behind the scene, which only can be ‘sold’ with difficulty because of its missing emotionality and concrete associations.

Europe's missing of a vision is also often said to be a disadvantage in the competition with other powerful regions such as China, North America, South Asia, Brasil etc. Emerging markets like India or China all have generally the vision of an economic catch up. Although this is quite a down-to-earth vision its implementation is a big challenge confirming the character of a vision as an imagined ideal (end-)state far away from an actual state.

But what could be a vision for Europe? Why not an economy integrated in a comprehensive ecologically sustainable recycling-system? On the one hand we have today in many countries in Europe different recycling-systems. A simple example are PET- and glass-bottles recycling-systems. But on the other hand we still have many products and processes using too many resources. For example there are still products made after the strategy of planned obsolescence (products with intentionally integrated weaknesses with the aim to reduce their life-time and to bring people to buy earlier new ones. It is also looked that reparations are no options).

Planned obsolescence is a resource-intensive (the product-turnover is very high) one-way strategy (many ‘dead’ products are landing on uncontrolled disposal sites in Western Africa or elsewhere in the third world). The strategy is legitimized by the argument that it secures a lot of workplaces and a prosperous economy. In a time where we know that resources are scarce linear one-way strategies aren’t options. In the long run there is no other way than to fit all economical processes into a sustainable recycle-system that has the form of a circle where all resources – from address-notes on paper to zinc carbon batteries – can circulate several or even endless times. Thus, the aim of an economy completely (and not only partly) integrated in a comprehensive recycling-system could be a vision for Europe.

By searching for economic, technical and political ways to implement the necessary steps to achieve these aims Europe would have the necessary challenges buttressing its integration. The vision, if taken seriously, would need creative and innovative ideas and would create workplaces. It probably also could be an example for emerging markets which may soon have caught up to the West and then are looking for new meaningful, pragmatic and future-leading visions. There are many possible visions for economically developed regions and countries. The mere protection of what has been achieved or the solving of serious (homemade) crises aren’t visions. Arguments that Europe can’t find a new vision because it is sluggish and replete are cheap and helpless justifications: If Europe wants to prosper and to stay one of the important regions in the world there is only one way: Europe needs a vision.

Claude Meier

No comments:

Post a Comment