OPINION

The big sleep

A growing number of facts — as well as prominent international observers — are pointing to the fact that the eurozone crisis is a systemic one.

The debts of national governments and the forces of the invisible markets are putting Europe?s self-image and democracy at risk. The alarm bells are ringing about the future of the European Union project.

Six former European leaders recently signed a declaration calling for a fresh New Deal and the issuing of Eurobonds. Leading historians including Mark Mazower and renowned economists like Amartya Sen have issued calls for a new version of the Marshall Plan, under which the United States helped revive Europe?s economies in the years after World War II.

The downgrade of Portugal?s credit rating earlier this week appears to have been a wake-up call for European government leaders. The political elites finally feel that any further foot-dragging will bring undesirable consequences.

But do they realize the precarious balance in which societies on the periphery of Europe have found themselves? Do European Union leaders understand that in trying not to upset the interests of capital, they are putting the entire political and social structure of the bloc in jeopardy?

Hostage to stereotypes — which date back to the years of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States — European leaders seem reluctant to adopt bold measures that are necessary to manage debts and regulate markets. After all, similar measures were introduced during similar periods in the past.

Because, as historian Mazower has pointed out, these people are unsure about their own power. The continent?s politicians, the elected representatives of some 500 million people, are not sure whether they can impose their demands on a group of speculators and managers. They are not sure whether they can rescue those three states that make up 5 percent of Europe?s gross domestic product. They put up with the usury and terrorism of naked credit default swaps.

Any remaining diplomatic capital that Greece might have should focus in that direction: shaping alliances and generating original ideas. Too bad the Socialist government of George Papandreou appears to have laid down its weapons.