The EU not only finds itself in a fiscal crisis, it is also faced with a crisis of confidence. We need a broadly based public debate on alternative proposals for the future of Europe. With this in mind, the Heinrich Böll Foundation's international conference "Europe's Common Future" explored different perspectives and policy proposals.
The Greek, French, Polish and German speakers on the panel "Germany's role in the crisis" strongly reinforced five opinions of mine:
1. Poland likes Germany much more than ever before. They count on us.
2. The French inferiority complex in EU matters is getting worse.
3. Greece has made very painful spending cuts, but has not implemented sufficient structural reforms. The talk about a Grexit is toxic for the economic climate, i.e. destroys the progress made by past reforms.
4. The discourse in Germany is wrong on many levels: Politicians not honest about the causes of the crisis and the huge risks and potential (!) costs, but also about the benefits of EU integration and how much money we make from interest payments or save due to low interest rates. Politicians are more concerned about the next elections than solving the crisis.
Chancellor Merkel puts narrow short-term German interests before long-term European interests, although Germany depends on the EU like no other. Finance Minister Schäuble is the only Europhile in the German government. A big difference to all previous governments of the Federal Republic, but not different from the other EU countries.
5. EU politicians, pundits, journos and citizens need to talk to each other about our common European interests. Such discourse could overcome mistrust and generate the political will to save/fix the Eurozone and implement many other necessary, yet huge EU reforms. Prof Gesine Schwan made a strong, emotional case for that.
None of these five points is brilliant or new analysis. In fact, it's pretty mainstream. I think there is a lot of consensus on the EU, but the difficulty is to formulate and implement specific and bold next steps.