Assignment: The Euro Crisis
In December 2009, Greece’s credit rating was downgraded by a leading rating agency, plunging the government into a financial crisis. In January 2010, Prime Minister George Papandreou ordered a second round of austerity measures, including public sector pay cuts, fuel increases, and a crackdown on tax evasion. EU leaders promised to help Greece meet its debt obligations but made no concrete pledges. General strikes and protests prompted by the unpopular austerity program continued into March, when Papandreou likened the budget crisis to a “wartime situation” and announced a third round of tax hikes and spending cuts. As the Greek government balanced precariously on the brink of default, the key euro zone countries stepped up with a €110 ($145) billion rescue package for the country; for its part, the Greek government agreed to still more stringent austerity measures. Trade unions called a general strike in protest.At first, the system did not work as intended because national governments bowed to domestic fears and gave away (rather than sold) permits and set the allowances too high. The EU has made adjustments aimed at tightening regulations and significantly reducing carbon emissions in the coming decades, but the cap-and-trade idea has yet to prove itself in practice. The global recession in 2008 and 2009 raised further questions about how vigorously national governments would push already stressed key industries to invest in cleaner technologies, as has the euro crisis since 2010.
The EU on the World Stage
The Atlantic Community forged after World War II was dominated by the United States, with Western Europe as a junior partner, but the distribution of power today is quite different. Asia and Europe—especially the European Union and China—play a larger role; the former superpowers play a smaller role (in the case of Russia, much smaller). The question is not whether the power picture will continue to change, but rather by how much.
Individually, the European countries cannot compete with the United States, China, Japan, and even India. Together, however, they most definitely can, as Europe’s single market amply demonstrates. In 2010, only a decade after the euro was launched, the EU accounted for 28-29% of total global GDP, a larger share than either the United States or China.
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