Can one be optimistic about the eurozone?

Our latest cover asks a simple question: Is the eurozone finally on the mend? The evidence of a recovery is strong – the eurozone countries grew by 2.7 per cent in 2017, the fastest rate for a decade. In Spain and Portugal, monstrously high levels of unemployment – 27 per cent in Spain in 2013 – have halved. Who could contest those figures? But when economics is mixed with politics, nothing is quite so simple.

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Alan Philps

Former Editor, The World Today, Communications and Publishing

Our latest cover, showing medical staff healing the injured southern tier of Europe, has prompted strong reactions. An Italian friend said it was ludicrously optimistic to suggest the eurozone was ‘on the mend’. I did point out the question mark at the end of the sentence. But he was unstoppable: the ‘provocations’ of the Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister in the national-populist Italian government, could end up destroying the eurozone. And not just the currency bloc: the European Commission which will be formed after the May elections to the European Parliament could be the last to preside over a centralized EU. In its place? A Germany-centred constellation of Berlin’s economic dependencies which would turn into vassal states, from Spain to Slovakia. Britain would be gone, and France would face a tough choice.

Others have said the cover art is unfair to the Portuguese, Spaniards and Greeks who have emerged from years of harsh medicine in the form of austerity, at huge cost to the lives of young people. They should be presented as rising from the ashes not still in intensive care.

You can make your own minds up by reading Duncan Weldon’s take on the eurozone crisis here. His three areas of concern at the end of the piece fully justify the question mark on the cover.

Erik Jones here shows the direction of travel of the European Union as a whole. Not as catastrophic as my Italian friend, but a union lacking vision and increasingly shorn of solidarity between rich and poor states, held together by a deep reservoir of political will.

Finally, the island of Ireland which could have been shown in our graphic with the Republic and the British-ruled North being forced apart by Brexit, not bandaged together in the way of the southern tier of Europe.

Ed O’Loughlin explains how the heroic sacrifices made by the people of the Republic after the banking crisis do not lead to any sunlit upland, but to political and economic disruption caused by the prospect of a hard Brexit.