Tick, tick, tick.
We are down to the final 12 speakers of the final parliamentary session before the (hopefully) final and (probably second to the last) vote in the last parliament on the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), the €440 billion bailout fund to hold the eurozone together.
The fate of the EFSF has come down to a life or death vote in Slovakia’s parliament. The Národná rada Slovenskej republiky is the last, and among the least, of the 17 Eurozone legislatures to vote on the permanent bailout fund. From the WSJ:
The government of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova is expected to lose a confidence vote she has linked to the vote on the bailout fund in an attempt to sway rebels in her four-party coalition to back the bailout fund.
However, a repeat vote on the EFSF could be held later this week and passed, if the government receives the support of opposition lawmakers from the left-of-center Smer-Social Democracy, or Smer, party. This would likely require a cabinet reshuffling. The repeat vote on the EFSF is unlikely to take place Wednesday as more time for political talks will be needed.
In the past, EU countries have used situations like this to extract big time concessions from their partners. Threatening to veto important but unrelated issues is the classic way one EU country mugs the rest. The Slovaks actually have a good case for not sending any money to the fund. Slovakia is poorer than either Greece or Germany: why should Slovak euros go to a fund that will save Greece and bail out German banks?There are good reasons for this, but not all of them are easily explained to the ordinary Slovak-in-the-street. In the end, it looks as if the Slovaks will ratify sometime in the next few days, but the possibility that last minute snags will appear is unsettlingly real.This is what a constitutional mess looks like. It is as if every major US law had to be ratified by both houses of every legislature in every state. That would be fine with the rest of us except that Europe’s ability to manage its financial system affects the prosperity and perhaps the peace of people all over the world.European political incompetence and irresponsibility caused the world untold misery in the 20th century. After 1945, the desperate and impoverished continent got its act together and embarked on an extraordinary 50 years of cooperation. Increasingly there are signs that the lessons of the twentieth century have worn off, and Europe’s policymakers for the last fifteen years have seemed increasingly inadequate to their tasks. (Of course in the US those fifteen years have not exactly been a new Age of Pericles, but that is a subject for another post.)This week marks the anniversary of Hitler’s triumph in the Sudentenland after the Munich Accords when the feckless British and French lost the last real chance to nip World War Two in the bud. What will historians be saying about this October if Europe once again fails to rise to the challenge?