People in Germany, Holland and Finland have little knowledge about the economic hardship in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. The North tends to use abstract arguments about economic soundness but with little knowledge of local conditions and consequences in the South. Conversely, there seems to be insufficient understanding in the South about the North. Also the newsmedia still focus on the own nations with only occasional mentioning of the other member states.
Earlier I presented a rather abstract Economic Plan for Europe (part 1 and part 2) but it are contacts at the personal level that are in demand just as well. There already are “twin towns” and “sister cities” but we can stimulate this much more. The table gives an example how countries might be teamed up. For example Holland and Greece. Holland has a national debt of 65% in 2011 and Greece 165% (before the PSI) but jointly the debt is 92% of their joint GDP. The idea is not that Holland adopts part of Greek debt but that the two countries start working together much more intensively, and the Debt-to-GDP ratio may monitor the advancement.
Why team up ? Well, when there are personal contacts between Dutch & Greek government, Dutch & Greek mayors, Dutch & Greek companies, Dutch & Greek schools and universities, then it is easier to co-operate and clarify what are the possibilities for co-operation, than when some spaceship from Brussels sends out coded messages of “austerity, austerity, austerity” that translate as “unemployment, unemployment, unemployment”.
Europe is a continent and a political process, not a nation. When Brussels says that we need austerity then people will also think that Brussels is far away. When the North says that we need austerity then this may also cause resentment rather than understanding of the macro-economic argument. But when the message is communicated by friends who are helping to look for investment opportunities and employment as well, then this is a world of difference.
|Country||Debt / GDP %|
|NL + EL||92|
|DE + IT||96|
|FR + ES||80|
|FI + PT||77|