OPINION

Political vision

More than 300 million European citizens welcomed the launch of the euro on New Year’s Day in a largely problem-free swap that was marked by manifest enthusiasm. Yesterday, banks were overwhelmed by people who rushed to make their first transactions using the common currency, which has finally become physical reality. The euro’s debut was highly successful and, despite a few inevitable hitches during the transition and adaptation to the new currency unit, the wager of introducing the euro into everyday life clearly has been won already. It now remains to exploit this accomplishment, which carries a huge economic as well as psychological weight. The political elite must capitalize on this success in order to accelerate the EU’s political integration, which seems to have slowed down after the failure of the Nice summit a year ago. It is common knowledge that EMU and the euro resulted from a political decision and not from some automatic procedure of economic convergence. Many politically shortsighted bureaucrats had criticized that group of European political leaders led by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had rightly forecast that the political benefit from the euro’s launch would be far greater than the cost of any resulting economic anomalies. Developments have vindicated the political will behind the euro’s introduction, as this has been the driving force of European integration in recent years. Now it’s time for the euro’s success to regenerate the process of political unification. The conjuncture is extremely favorable, and public enthusiasm should not go unexploited. European leaders should seize the day and promote closer European political integration, to hammer out the 21st-century Europe which will inspire the continent’s citizens while also providing a genuine shield for the euro against all perils. The success of the euro’s introduction should not nourish delusions or lead us to underestimate problems. Economic and monetary union of 12 and what will soon be 25 or more European states with huge variations in levels of economic development will inevitably create tensions which cannot possibly be tackled by economic technocrats alone. The future will bring crises which can only be resolved through political consultation and decision-making mechanisms. Only a higher level of political integration will be capable of ensuring harmonious settlement of disputes and prevent social unrest. The euro’s greatest achievement will be to propel the process of Europe’s political unification without delays and oscillations. Pserimos, in the eastern Aegean, was also isolated because of the ban on sailings. «We do not have a bank nor any automated teller machine for us to get any euros. We did not manage to get any from another island, because of the sailing ban. On the other hand, pensioners keep coming and asking what they will have to do to get used to the new currency, because they will get their pensions in euros on January 25,» said coffee-shop owner Nikolaos Tirikilis.