At a press conference marking French President Francois Hollande’s first year in office, the powerful head of one the largest E.U. states called for an economic government for the euro zone. One might be tempted to ask, what exactly is an economic government? By definition, a government is a political entity. Show me a government without politics and I’ll pack up and head to the Himalayas for a life of other-worldly contemplation. What, pray tell, is an economic government exactly?
In his remarks, Hollande proposed that the euro-zone government would have its own budget, the right to borrow, a harmonized tax system, and a full-time president. Continuing its reportage, Reuters adds, “Hollande said a future euro zone economic government would debate the main political and economic decisions to be taken by member states, harmonize national fiscal and welfare policies, and launch a battle against tax fraud.”
Debating political rather than only economic decisions would render the proposed government both political and economic. But would it be a government at all?
Debating decisions that would be “taken by member states” suggests more of an alliance or cartel than a government. If the European Parliament is involved with only representatives from euro-zone states voting, the decisions would not just be taken by the state governments. The same holds if the European Commission is involved.
Generally speaking, one of the things that the E.U. suffers from is linguistic confusion. By this I don’t mean bad translations. Rather, politically charged terms including federalism, union, member, and network are bandied about rather carelessly at times and with serious political agendas at other times. Government being applied to the E.U. is another such word. In his remarks, Hollande seems to have been trying to tweak the word by specifying it as economic only even though political decision would be debated in the proposed government. In trying to have it both ways—an economic regime and a political union—Hollande was being political at the expense of that which he proposed.
Dancing around terms—even changing their respective meanings—in order to get something past detractors who pay too much attention to words comes at a price in terms of E.U. institutions whose respective natures and proper functioning are ambiguous. This is perhaps the real crisis facing the E.U.—one of identity—and state leaders such as Hollande are not exactly clearing up the muddy water.
* Read more on The Worden Report.