European Commission

At the end of 2006, a few weeks before the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in the European Union (EU), Western analysts did a little bleak assessment of the economies of the two countries, noting that to achieve the objectives of the EU both partners should set an annual rate of not less than 7% growth. In fact, two States of Southeast Europe did not meet even the basic requirements for membership of the Union: a level of development equivalent to 50% of the Community average. The hitherto undependable alternative of cohesion funds was. In other words, the maximum utilization of Community aid to stimulate the increase of economic activities. Before the accession of Sofia and Bucharest, the Baltic countries and Poland had to resort to turn to the financing of Brussels. But the situation gave an unexpected and dramatic tipping at the end of last year, when the European Commission was forced to reconsider its policy of aid to the new partners. The global crisis forced the Eurocrats to contemplate the possibility of accepting the unpopular project of a Europe at two speeds, a Union divided between rich and poor.

The countries of Eastern Europe were forced to play the thankless role of relatives poor, unable to raise head or get rid of the complex of little solvent partners. A quick review of the recessive trends of the new partners of the EU underlines the dangers facing their economies. It is estimated that GDP in the Czech Republic will around contract 2% here in late 2009. In the case of Hungary, the reduction will rub 6%, while in Lithuania, the decline could reach 12%. A real meltdown, taking into account the utopian growth prospects for 2005. According to Western economists, this could translate into a deterioration of the creditworthiness of the Union at international level. Less exposed seems to the economies of Nations such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose Governments prefer to maintain the flotation system of their respective currencies against the euro. The danger is even lower for countries that have adopted the common currency European, such as Slovakia or Slovenia.

In the majority of cases, the instability is encouraged due to the flight of the creditors and the inevitable decline of trade. The sense of isolation generates sequences of political instability, which are reflected in the resurgence of nationalism or populism and, economically, the temptation to resort to protectionist practices. All of this with a clear background of dangerous and progressive distancing from the dynamics of European integration. These dangers have become the backdrop of the European Summit in March, in which special emphasis on the threats to the solidity of the single market. The IMF, the World Bank and the European Bank for reconstruction and development are preparing new injections of funds earmarked for the Europe of the poor. Meanwhile, continental integration dream becomes nightmare for those who have been forced to face the recriminations of the euro-escepticos, as for example the President of the EU, Czech Vaclav Klaus. Not the slightest doubt that the Europe of tomorrow, the United Europe that dreamed of Maurice Schuman, Konrad Adenauer or Charles de Gaulle, will be done with the effort and the sacrifice of all. Or it won’t.