Commentary: Europe's Economic Crisis

NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr reflects on the development of the European Union's common market, and the economic fallout from the financial crisis in Greece.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been thinking about the Greek crisis. In particular, whether it has its roots in Europe's creation of a common currency 11 years ago.

DANIEL SCHORR: In the end, the European Union could not cast out Greece, its wasteful son. And with clenched teeth, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in principle to a $145 billion bailout expected to be approved later this week. It was a grim day for the united Europe that emerged from the ashes of World War II with the aid of the Marshall Plan.

Assigned to Europe in those days, I have vivid memories of European integration. In the beginning was Benelux, the iconic union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - three constitutional monarchies joined in the 1950s to stand up to the big powers. The most serious steps toward integration came with the agreement among France, West Germany and other European countries to create the coal-steel community.

Putting their resources under international control was meant to ensure that the French and the Germans, who had fought three wars in this century, would not plunge Europe into a conflict again.

The era of European integration was the era of Charles De Gaulle of France and Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, an unlikely team that brought the countries of Europe together and began the real process of unification.

During most of that time, Britain stood on the sidelines. A joke of that time headline in London telegraph: Storm in channel, continent cut off. But European integration kept marching ahead and finally reached a zenith with a common currency, the euro. Britain stayed on the sidelines.

Now there is no marching back, no retreat from the euro. In a way that would've seemed fantasy decades ago, European currencies are now tied together into the euro for good or for ill.

And so, stand by while Portugal, Spain, Ireland and perhaps others find their economic woes putting pressure on their euros. They wanted a common market, they got it.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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