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The European Debt Crisis, continued …

On July 16, 2010, when the debt cri­sis that cur­rent­ly engulfs Europe was still begin­ning to take shape, I dis­cussed the Impli­ca­tions of Euro­pean De-Inte­gra­tion for Inter­na­tion­al Law, in a short post on this blog.  In the post, I pre­dict­ed that the fis­cal crises would have major impli­ca­tions for the future of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion and that—unlike the orig­i­nal euro project—efforts to deal with the cri­sis “will not be the result of a pop­u­lar pol­i­cy pref­er­ence, but instead will be the prod­uct of an exter­nal con­straint on the abil­i­ty of Euro­pean economies to remain inte­grat­ed with­out spi­ral­ing into chaos.”

Since the Sum­mer of 2010, events have not tak­en a pos­i­tive turn, and hopes of find­ing an easy res­o­lu­tion to the prob­lem of rapid­ly increas­ing pub­lic debt in sev­er­al Euro­zone coun­tries have dete­ri­o­rat­ed.   It is now clear that the Euro­zone as ini­tial­ly con­sti­tut­ed is a fail­ure, and will need to be revamped and remade in a new, and large­ly unrec­og­niz­able, form.  Whether the future of the euro and Euro­zone lies in rad­i­cal inte­gra­tion or in dis­in­te­gra­tion at this point remains uncer­tain.

Some of the basic ideas in the orig­i­nal blog post have been fleshed out in an arti­cle that I pub­lished in Vol­ume 17 of the Colum­bia Jour­nal of Euro­pean Law, enti­tled Impli­ca­tions of Euro­pean Dis­in­te­gra­tion for Inter­na­tion­al Law.  The Arti­cle explains the struc­tur­al prob­lems with the euro sys­tem which make the cur­rent cri­sis so intractable, and also offers some lessons for inter­na­tion­al law more gen­er­al­ly.  From the abstract:

The Euro­pean debt cri­sis that start­ed in 2009 has revealed under­ly­ing struc­tur­al prob­lems in the Euro­pean Mon­e­tary Union, threat­en­ing the via­bil­i­ty of the com­mon cur­ren­cy in its cur­rent form. An unrav­el­ing of mon­e­tary coor­di­na­tion in Europe would mark a sig­nif­i­cant event of dis­in­te­gra­tion, in the face of a decades-long trend of inte­gra­tion that was com­mon­ly con­sid­ered an inevitable and self-sus­tain­ing process.

This Arti­cle argues that even a rea­son­able pos­si­bil­i­ty of dis­in­te­gra­tion of this mag­ni­tude upsets pre­vi­ous the­o­riz­ing about Euro­pean inte­gra­tion which over-empha­sized the EU’s “supra­na­tion­al” char­ac­ter.

More gen­er­al­ly, dis­in­te­gra­tion pos­es seri­ous prob­lems for inter­na­tion­al law schol­ar­ship across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum, much of which has orga­nized itself around the his­tor­i­cal­ly con­tin­gent trend of inte­gra­tion as if it were an a-his­tor­i­cal giv­en. The debt crises reveals that use of Europe by both “Skep­ti­cal” and “Cos­mopoli­tan” inter­na­tion­al law schol­ars is large­ly an oppor­tunis­tic rhetor­i­cal strat­e­gy that con­ceals fun­da­men­tal weak­ness­es of both view­points in their debate over the lim­its and promise of inter­na­tion­al legal­iza­tion and coop­er­a­tion.

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