At a time of a fresh start for many EU Institutions, STG's Professor George Papaconstantinou publishes a new book about the battle between competing views on the European project, drawing lessons from financial and existential crises and looking at what lies ahead.
In 2009, George Papaconstantinou found himself in the eye of the storm when the global financial crisis hit Greece particularly hard. As the country’s Minister of Finance, Papaconstantinou played a key role in negotiating the first Troika bailout and guiding his country through painful economic and social reforms.
Even though economics and political science teach otherwise, “at the end of the day you do reforms when you are with your back against the wall,” he observes looking back at that period. “That’s a contradiction, but it is how the EU has operated.”
During the Euro’s darkest hour, the European project prevailed over nationalist tendencies and political calculus. “The political will was there to not only save the Euro, but also to correct its flawed institutional infrastructure,” Papaconstantinou explains during a conversation in Fiesole.
That is why the by now famous words uttered by Mario Draghi in 2012 adorn the book cover. The then President of the European Central Bank said the bank was ready to do “whatever it takes” to save the Euro. However, according to Papaconstantinou the necessary EU reforms happened “too late and at a too high political and socio-economic cost.”
The author believes that Europe should pay more attention to broader shifts outside the EU that are affecting people’s lives, such as globalisation, artificial intelligence and technology, rather than focusing on EU internal issues.
This means tomorrow’s leaders should not only acquire the practical skills of policy-making, but also the empathy “to understand people who do not have an automatic belief or adherence to the European project, or who find themselves at a disadvantage at a time of radical change.”
Professor George Papaconstantinou teaches International Trade and Finance and Transformation of Global Governance at the School of Transnational Governance. He is also part of the faculty for the new Master of Transnational Governance that will start in Autumn 2020.