2011: 'Annus horribilis' or 'annus mirabilis'?
One year ago, analysts were calling 2010 Europe's “annus horribilis”, a horrible year. Little did they know about the events that were to follow.
Flicking through the images of 2011, it is hard not to feel a seismic shift: Once-invincible Arab regimes brought down, Japan's earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster, another eye-popping chapter written in Europe's debt and currency history. [...]
As another year begins, there is no end in sight to the euro crisis. A succession of leadership summits has failed to calm worries about the common currency, EU solidarity and European leadership. Emmanouildis called the gather “the enigmatic summit”.
“We cannot know which phase of the crisis we are in," he said. "Are we maybe still in the middle? Are we in the beginning of the end leading to Armageddon? Or are we in the beginning of the end in the sense that we are accomplishing step-by-step elements that will take us out of the crisis?"
Some analysts see what is happening today as a flashback to the European sclerosis of the 1970s and '80s, before Maastricht, rapid enlargement, open frontiers and a common currency.
But the stakes are much higher today. “If things worked out negatively in this crisis, the effects of that would be much bigger. I think it probably is the worst crisis the European integration process has lived through,” Emmanouilidis said.
Hitting the streets
The magnitude the crisis and the austerity measures to follow has given the crisis a broader social dimension.
Leaders were unable to respond to the increasing lack of trust from their own people, with 2011 witnessing the fall of governments - including Greece, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark - and the rise of the “indignados” movement, which originated in the Puerta de Sol in Madrid.
Their marches went beyond Spain, hitting Brussels, Italy and influencing the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in New York. The Madrid protests reflected the rising level of frustration, despair and collective anger among the younger generation of Europeans over joblessness and political exclusion.
“It comes to the fundamental question of whether the sovereign crisis is part of a much larger crisis which affects all democracies,” Emmanouilidis said.
Meanwhile, the euro crisis has made the unthinkable become thinkable.
First, the euro-exit taboo has been broken. It’s the very foundations of the EU that are threatened and the effects of the crisis worsening and becoming unstoppable would be “enormous”, Emmanouilidis said. [...]
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