This is an article I published in 1992 on national public opinions as the main barrier to effective monetary union. In view of the present situation, where Euroland member states seek to occupy a half way-house between a a federal ECB and 17 sovereigns with fiscal autonomy, the theme expounded here is worth re-visiting. German public opinion is averse to bail-outs, but is also in favour of the Euro. As long as this parenthesis lasts, financial markets will continue to sense the ambiguity, and operate as if the end of the Euro is an option. The reason why member states tremble at the prospect of moving to a fully fledged federal union is that they are worried that public opinions may baulk at the idea. In short, public opinion has always been the elephant in Europe’s monetary room.
Both the SEA and the Maastricht treaty were negotiated by elites and presented for ratification to the parliaments and peoples of the European states. The aim of the complex exercise was to préserve and embed Western Europe society, which had prospered in the past 45 years, so that a hard core of Europe would radiate its values and wealth into the wider, more turbulent Europe opened up by the endof the cold war. But « Maastricht » is a design for a new Europe, which casts shallow roots in European political cultures, and opinions. The old methods of haggling over details, because of disagreements about ends, have prompted member states to protect or project their interests into the negotiations, while postponing the two major questions facing Europe — money and défense — for further debate in 1996. Mean-while, national identifies are challenged by the immediate concerns, innate mutual suspicions, and the return of conditions of flux to world and European affairs. « Maastricht » is the point where European diplomacy and statecraft — elitest by origin, inspiration and context — meets democratie endorsement or rejection. The struggle for Europe’s future has only begun.
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