The finance ministers of the eurozone member states will gather in Wroclaw, Poland, on Friday for a meeting to discuss the financial crisis. Poland is the right place to hold such a meeting.
I don’t mean Poland because it holds the presidency of the Council of Ministers for these six months, but Poland because of its history.
The 18th century Polish state was famously destroyed by the inadequacies of its political system. Its parliament could only reach decisions by unanimous agreement: opposition from a single member was enough to prevent a decision and obstruct action. Poland’s aggressive neighbours took advantage and Poland disappeared from the map for more than 100 years. The idea of Poland remained, but the political system of Poland did not.
To survey the eurozone today gives something of the same impression. Any reform of the EU that will solve the problem, as opposed to merely postponing it getting worse, will require the unanimous agreement of all the member states. Opposition from a single member state would be enough to prevent a decision and obstruct action. And opposition we are not short of.
In Germany, there is a strong unwillingness to guarantee new loans to the most indebted countries, an unwillingness shared by the governing parties, the constitutional court and the central bank. In Slovakia, the speaker of the parliament, Richard Sulik, would rather see Greece leave the euro (and thus destroy the eurozone) than see an expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility to support countries and banks in need. In Finland, the rise of the True Finns party has pushed the government there into a more hawkish position.
Any one of these countries could block the action that is necessary to restore financial stability to Europe (meaning not only the eurozone and not only the EU). If they do block that action, they will not only be responsible for their own failures, but will also cause a failure in others. The consequences of such failure do not look good. The history of Poland should make them stop and think.