Van Rompuy: “Europe is still sexy…”

So sayeth the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as the BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt notes

Europe’s leaders are unsettled, scratchy. Old certainties have given way to anxiety. The open road to ever closer union is now strewn with boulders.

You can gauge the ebbing confidence from remarks that didn’t need to be made.

“Europe is still sexy,” declared President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. “As long as a club attracts new members,” he added, “it is in good shape.”

More easily you can detect fear in the words of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Without the euro, he said, there would be no Europe.

Both he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said that the fight to save the eurozone is a fight to save the European project.

In their view the threat is existential.

And the Irish Times notes the Greek response to the comments by the President of the Euro Group of finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker [a not entirely reliable witness – Ed]

Greece will stave off default not only for its own sake but because its survival is vital for the euro zone and the global economy, Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos has said. 

With help from its EU partners and fresh determination, the debt-ridden euro zone member will regain its fiscal sovereignty as soon as possible and aims to return to markets in the middle of 2014, as expected, the minister said.

“We will make it, because this is vital not only for Greece but for the stability of the whole euro zone and the global economy, because in Greece the stamina of the financial system is being tested,” he added.

That might depend on the ruling by the German Federal Constitutional Court, or “the Elders of the planet Tharg” as a certain “blood-crazed ferret” has dubbed them…

And the new Finnish government are raising their voice

Finland’s new finance minister said today the Nordic country will demand guarantees against participation in any new euro area bailouts and wants private investors to bear more of the burden.

“We want to limit Finland’s responsibilities. The new government has taken a tougher stance than the previous government regarding crisis countries’ aid packages,” Jutta Urpilainen told in a television interview with public broadcaster YLE.

Meanwhile, as Mick has noted, Portugal’s debt has just been downgraded to junk status by credit ratings agency Moody’s.

“The Portugal downgrade clearly is negative because as the downgrades spread from the weakest to the weaker, the market is now asking, ‘if Portugal is downgraded, will Spain be next?'” said Cary Leahey, an economist at Decision Economics in New York.

“It’s symptomatic of the contagion effects in the eurozone.”

Once again, as for the wider picture?

The existential crisis will remain…  And, for supporters of the “European Project”, the longer-term options are stark.

As Gavin Hewitt says

The crisis in Greece is raising some very fundamental questions and not just in the UK.

The current strategy is to muddle through. It might just work. Greece might find growth from somewhere and its debt mountain might subside – but don’t bet on it. And the deeper the crisis, the more all kinds of ideas and visions will bubble to the surface. The debate would be on.

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