A caricature in today’s (August 10th) “Hospodarské Noviny”, Slovakia’s largest economic daily newspaper caught my attention.
A raft carrying 4 well off men drinking champagne floats on some sea called the Eurozone, while a hand and a ragged sleeve sticks out of the sea. “Slovakia” is written on that sleeve while the on the raft are listed the names of four countries that have made news recently: Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The debate if Slovakia should participate in the European safety net for debt stricken countries has been raging ever since the first aid plan. Slovakia’s people have made tremendous personal efforts during the post communist reforms: skyrocketing prices, unemployment, a struggling health and education infrastructure with a breakdown of what was in the past a very conservative society.
It is understandable that being asked to pitch in a State guarantee of almost 4,5 billion EUR makes people pretty angry. As was said at the time of the first bailout, Slovakia is a poor country, and has no resources to spare for countries that have not been able to finance themselves in a reasonable way.
That would be forgetting two important things: Slovakia is issued generous funding from the European Union for its development, infrastructure and education. 11,5 billion EUR are pre-allocated to Slovakia for 2007-2013 (for which 2,2 billion have been paid), and it would be unfair not to count it in the global European package, even if EU does not mean Eurozone.
The drawing does make me uncomfortable. Showing privileged fat guys drinking champagne on their boat while you drown does point towards the idea that the people on the raft are to blame for your demise. Firstly, I don’t think that nations that need the EFSF are “drinking champagne”: they are facing severe recession and high unemployment. They are probably going to live through the same hardships Slovaks went through: no-one remembers it as drinking champagne (a part for a bunch of well-connected moguls).
Now don’t get me wrong: I am as angry at politicians having mismanaged their economies for political gain than at the financial institutions that went bankrupt because of poor judgment. People who have elected politicians without thinking of what their promises were costing the country do need to tighten their belt as they are responsible for letting this happen. But let’s remember that the only reason Greeks managed to drown themselves in debt is that some people lent the money to them. Sounds familiar?
If the recession that has hit us since 2008 leads to a resurgence of nationalist finger pointing, the EU is in much more danger than I previously thought. This crisis is not so simple, and we need to overcome as Europeans, united and in peace.