Euro a step toward union

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

This editorial appeared Sunday in the Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil:

The beginning of the euro is a decisive step in the construction of the European Union.

The day scheduled for the circulation of the currency has been called "E Day" as opposed to "D Day" when allied forces disembarked in Normandy.

It is by the distance between both dates that the size of the achievement has to be measured. From the imperialist and neocolonialist arrogance of the 19th century, the Europeans went on to build a supra-national entity, sheltered in the economy, not war or genocide.

Among all of the post-World War II political and institutional constructions, the European Union stands as the one which was able to re-invent itself, identify new energy and create a long-term landscape.

It is a notable achievement, especially if compared with what was left from the supra-national institutions inaugurated after the World War II victory: IMF, World Bank and the United Nations, all still far from accomplishing their roles.

On the other hand, the advent of this important supra-national currency takes place within a worrying economic and geopolitical context. First, whereas the euro appears on the side of the U.S. dollar as a global monetary reference, its value through the past years has been below expected levels. Sometimes it devalued sharply. A parity between both became unsustainable.

The European Central Bank has opposed lowering interest rates despite the slowdown of the international economy. Regional interest was placed as a priority in relation to the difficulties of the world economy.

In a general way, the euro is still better for the EU than for the rest of the world. Furthermore, the global monetary system is still in a precarious condition.

The strength of the euro also depends on the will of European authorities to open their markets. It is from the investments, trade and financing that derives the strength of a currency in the world system. From this standpoint, the European economy is still far from the weight reached by the U.S. economy.

In some areas like agriculture, Europe plays openly against globalization. The idea with this is to defend some interests of the EU which, since it limits the development of poorer countries out of the bloc, compromises Europe's inclusion as a global financial leader.

United States must listen, too

This editorial appeared in Tuesday's Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo:

In uncertain times, many people prefer the projection of power, tending to choose governmental controls over freedom, and military might over international cooperation.

Has the world changed? This question has been raised by many people since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Asking it seems to suggest that people think the world needs changing. A number of prominent polemicists in the international community argue, for example, that while the nations of the world now try to conform to a common standard with the United States for the sake of "globalization," it is the United States that needs to toe the mark, rather than being the model.

In the battle against the terrorism since Sept. 11, the United States has tried to build its own form of a framework for international cooperation. But the world cannot move forward unless there is a change in the behavior of the superpower, which regards international organizations and other nations simply as instruments for achieving its own aims. The stalemate in resolving issues for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on limits of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and the status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear weapons are obvious proofs of that.

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