Europeans unhappy with their currency

The overwhelming majority of French, Germans, Italians and Spaniards believe that the euro has had a detrimental effect upon their national economies, according to the results of a recent survey by the British newspaper Financial Times. Not even 20 percent of those polled said they believed that the introduction of the euro had positive repercussions on their national economies; this percentage plunged to 5 percent in the case of France, where nearly 80 percent of those polled declared outright their conviction that the euro had wreaked serious damage upon their country’s economy. Bearing these developments in mind, it is hardly surprising that most of these European citizens declare – five years after the introduction of this common currency – that they regret giving up their original currencies. The current discontent with the euro is understandable in Germany (where 65 percent of the population claims to prefer the strong Mark) but one would have expected it to be less pronounced in countries like Italy and Spain whose original currencies were weaker. It is all too evident that Europeans have not only failed to embrace the euro but that they regard it as the reason for their countries’ economic problems; and they are probably making this assessment based on their personal experience. The euro lost its bid to win the hearts and minds of European Union citizens when its introduction was followed by a wave of profiteering and sharp increases in everyday products and services. In Greece, for example, we may remember a wave of price hikes for snack bar fare such as coffees and sandwiches, soft drinks, the ubiquitous cheese pie as well as fruit and vegetables; the price of these – and many other products – skyrocketed by between 50 percent and 100 percent. And as a result the public’s opinion of the euro was tarnished considerably although there was no noticeable change in consumption rates because of these price hikes. This wave of profiteering indisputably contributed toward a redistribution of income among workers who will probably draw little comfort from the fact that it was small and medium-sized businesses, not major firms, which profited at their expense. Public discontent with the euro has serious sociopolitical repercussions. In association with the absence of any procedures of deepening political union in the bloc and the total alienation of citizens from each successive round of enlargement (which chiefly serve market needs), this discontent undermines the foundations of the «European family» we had once dreamt about.