Cafe Europa

Recent developments demonstrate that Greece is not the only country reminiscent of a coffeehouse where everyone can more or less say whatever comes to mind.

The lingering debt crisis, it seems, has had a similar effect on a bunch of eurozone nations. If we are to believe what we read in the press and hear in news bulletins, Europe is quickly turning into one great big coffeehouse. Some pundits have criticized the European Union?s failure to speak with a single voice, saying that the 27-member bloc has come to resemble the Tower of Babel. The EU has effectively been reduced to a vast coffeehouse where officials from different member states discuss the future of the euro currency, Greece, and the other debt-hit countries of Southern European.

Sure, the financial situation is very troubling and the widespread concern about the future of the euro area is justified. Perhaps Greek worries are even more serious as most of the debt-wracked country?s problems are rooted in its social, economic and political particularities. On top of these endemic shortcomings we have had to tackle the problems that are dogging our European partners.

That said, we do not have to pay too much attention to every single comment made by European officials, to every piece of analysis made in the foreign media, and to every prophecy handed by first- and second-class economists.

The uncomfortable truth is that a large proportion of these comments serves ulterior motives or is simply groundless. If Greece is reminiscent of a coffeehouse, and if Europe is reminiscent of an even bigger coffeehouse, that is to a large extent because everyone of us deems that they have a right to express their opinion, thinking that they are making a unique contribution to the collective knowledge. The effect has gained momentum with the proliferation of the electronic media, the Internet and the so-called social media.

Most people like to believe that this development promotes fruitful discussion and the synthesis of different ideas and also helps create better informed citizens.

The counterargument is that it can lead to confusion and enable extremists to create misleading impressions. The style, of course, always depends whether the targeted audience is at home or abroad.