] The real European crisis is not the Greek economy but the evolving regionalization of the Continent. By Marko Papic Europe continues to be engulfed by economic crisis. The global focus returns to Athens [link



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The Price of Regional Hegemony

 

The alternative to the regionalization of Europe is clear German leadership that underwrites -- economically and politically -- greater European integration. If Berlin can overcome the anti-euro populism that is feeding on bailout fatigue in the Eurozone core, it could continue to support the periphery and prove its commitment to the Eurozone and the European Union. Germany is also trying to show Central Europe that its relationship with Russia is a net positive by using its negotiations with Moscow over Moldova as an example of German political clout.



 

Central Europeans, however, are already putting Germany's leadership and commitment to the test. Poland assumes the EU presidency July 1 and has made EU's commitment to increase funding for new EU member states, as well as EU defense cooperation, its main initiatives. Both policies are a test for Germany and an offer for it to reverse the ongoing security regionalization. If Berlin says no to new money for the newer EU member states -- at stake is the EU’s cohesion-policy funding, which in the 2007-2013 budget period totaled 177 billion euro -- and no to EU-wide security/defense arrangements, then Warsaw, Prague and other Central European capitals have their answer. The question is whether Germany is serious about being a leader of Europe and paying the price to be the hegemon of a united Europe, which would not only mean funding bailouts but also standing up to Russia. If it places its relationship with Russia over its alliance with Central Europe, then it will be difficult for Central Europeans to follow Berlin. And this will mean that the regionalization of Europe’s security architecture -- via the V4 and Nordic-Baltic battlegroups -- makes sense. It will also mean that Central Europeans will have to find new ways to draw the United States into the region for security.



 

At the end of the day, common security perception is about states understanding that they share the same fate. American states understood this at the end of the 18th century, which is why they gave up their independence, setting the United States on the path toward superpower status. Europeans -- at least at present -- don't see their situation (or the world) in the same light. Bailouts are enacted not because Greeks share the same fate as Germans but because German bankers share the same fate as German taxpayers. This is a sign that integration has progressed to a point where economic fate is shared, but this is an inadequate baseline on which to build a common political union.


Bailing out Greece is seen as an affront to the German taxpayer, even though that same German taxpayer has benefited disproportionally from the Eurozone’s creation. The German government understands the benefits of preserving the Eurozone -- which is why it continues bailing out the peripheral countries -- but there has been no national debate in Germany to explain this logic to the populace. Germany is still waiting to have an open conversation with itself about its role and its future, and especially what price it is willing to pay for regional hegemony and remaining relevant in a world fast becoming dominated by powers capable of harnessing the resources of entire continents.
And without a coherent understanding in Europe that its states all share the same fate, the Greek crisis has little chance of being Europe's Shay's Rebellion, triggering deeper unification. Instead of a United States of Europe, its fate will be ongoing regionalization.


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