Europe must agree on shared financial and social policies to offset the risk of another crisis that almost saw Greece quit the eurozone, a European bishops’ commission has said.
A statement issued yesterday by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, expressed relief that a bailout package had prevented the “Grexit” – the prospect of Greece abandoning the euro currency and returning to using the drachma.
But the cardinal said it was “vital that we learn lessons from the events of recent weeks”, including the recognition that EU member states “have got to do more work on the basis of our economic and monetary union, while Europe needs a stronger political coordination in the areas of economic, financial and social policy”.
“A new approach to economic and financial cooperation in the EU is essential” if countries are to be “free of the perpetually returning threat of a currency crisis or social conflict”, the cardinal added.
His remarks in favour of greater centralised political control of markets and finance in the European Union may be considered controversial in countries like Britain, marked by the rise of anti-EU parties, and by a growing sense that EU institutions are fundamentally undemocratic.
But Cardinal Marx said that up until the point where Greece nearly left the European Union, no serious attempt had been made “to tackle the structural causes of the crisis”, and any new solutions must address those causes.
“The project of European integration and unity has brought its peoples peace, security and prosperity,” the cardinal said. “These successes need to be protected and to be shared by all. Europe is a project of reconciliation, not of division.
“What is now required is that all Europeans come together so that we can carry this European project forward hand in hand,” he added. “The targets set at the moment the European Union was founded are far from being met.”
In a referendum Greece rejected imposed austerity measures to solve its severe debt crisis and faced expulsion from the eurozone as a result.
But with Greek banks on the verge of collapse, European leaders agreed a new bailout deal of 86 billion euros ($93.6 billion) as long as the country agreed to new austerity terms, which were approved by the Greek parliament this week.
The deal means that Greece will remain in the eurozone and that Greek banks, which were closed for about three weeks, would re-open as early as Monday.