Writing in the Financial Times today, Patrick Jenkins is very rude about Esperanto – the artificial language some people champion as a bold new lingua franca for Europe.
The concept of a language created rather than evolved, spoken only by enthusiasts, and one which ironically – in our increasingly globalised world – is surely doomed to failure, given the dominance of English, has always reminded me of the euro.
Jenkins’ criticism of Esperanto might be valid (despite the dedication of its advocates), but his comparison to the euro is perhaps unfair. Esperanto is spoken by an estimated 2 million people worldwide. The Euro is the second largest reserve currency in the world. In addition, currencies are always “created” – indeed, they are created quite literally when a government or monarch stamps a design on a piece of metal and convinces other people to exchange it for food, clothing and shelter. The concept of using a medium of exchange to circumvent a pure barter system is artifical in any context.
Jenkins continues, however, to give reasons why the Euro is still in trouble despite the deal thrashed out by Europe’s leaders last Friday. He argues that the crisis is not being taken “seriously enough” and that:
To change that the eurozone must be given a serious system of governance with its European financial stability facility financial assistance programme made big enough to lead a credible bail-out of any nation in need. At the same time it must ensure banks bear more pain and bank shareholders stump up more capital. Only then can the governments, banks and economies of the eurozone really start to recover.
So, is the Euro still in trouble? I thought the crisis was over? Markets had certainly responded well to Friday’s summit. Then Greek debt was downgraded again by ratings agency Moody’s, who now say there is a “virtually 100%” chance that the country will default.
We asked Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister and former prime minster, to comment on the eurozone crisis. Here’s what he had to say:
Every currency has its crisis now and then. I am not particularly worried with German growth between four and five percent and the rest of Northern Europe performing very well. There has to be adjustment policies in the South but this was the case for us in the Northern EU as well a couple of decades ago.
Of course we can have a common currency in the EU just as the US can have its US-dollar. The fluctuations in competitiveness among the US states are even larger, I would say, than the fluctuations in the eurozone. We need to learn how to handle these fluctuations politically and this is a process of trial and error that will take its time.
There is still a certain degree of narrow national sentiments being expressed in the tabloid headlines which remind us that the unification of Europe is still in its early stages.
The question is, of course, will European leaders learn how to “handle these fluctuations” in time?