The Trouble with Europe | Roger Bootle

Summary of: The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU Isn’t Working – How it Can Be Reformed – What Could Take Its Place
By: Roger Bootle


The Trouble with Europe by Roger Bootle examines the historical, economic, and political foundations of the European Union (EU) and the challenges it continues to face today. This book summary delves into the origins of the EU, the growth of its membership, and the complexities of governing such a diverse set of countries. It offers insights into the slow economic growth of the EU, the challenges of integrating new countries, as well as the strains that globalization, migration, and cultural differences bring. The book critically evaluates the monetary union, the euro, and the need for potential reforms within the EU.

Europe’s Path To Peace

The European Union was founded after World War II to promote integration and prevent future conflicts. French statesmen, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, envisioned this through The European Economic Community. An increase in countries and a shift of power from nation states to union institutions resulted in economic growth, laying the foundation for the euro currency and political ties. Today, the EU has 28 members, aims to compete with the United States, China, and India, and serves individual nations’ financial interests through a large, peaceful marketplace. However, current leaders are criticized for lacking vision.

Europe’s Identity Crisis

Europe faces an identity crisis driven by migration, economic disparity, and cultural differences. The European Union (EU) struggles to harmonize member nations with disparate economies and cultures, causing increasing frustration and a growing anti-Europe movement in many countries. As the EU considers expansion to include culturally and economically different nations, questions about the shared values and identity of the EU arise. Europeans often feel they lack control over the volume and nature of regulations from the EU. The challenge is not only economic but also about the quality of governance and democracy. To navigate this identity crisis, the EU must determine what values and identity it wants and at what point it should halt expansion.

EU’s Economic Troubles

The original six members of the EU enjoyed high economic growth thanks to postwar rebuilding while the UK struggled with structural issues. The EU’s policies of trade, labor, and expense controls create structural problems and inefficiencies, hindering economic growth. The formation of the euro and the EU’s moral hazard have contributed to economic troubles, and its trading policies interfere with business and encourage overspending.

The Birth and Nightmares of the Euro

The euro was not born out of economic sense, but rather political pragmatism. The Maastricht Treaty laid down economic criteria for is eligibility, but neighboring nations have no control over each other’s chosen policies. The euro’s launch allowed countries with previously high-interest rates to experience cheap money, leading to massive spending sprees and a loss of competitiveness in the periphery countries. The global financial crisis led to harsh times for the periphery members and a worsening in their debt-to-GDP ratios. The solution to buy the bonds of troubled countries without limitation resulted in larger distressed economies not being subject to the same fiscal controls as countries in the bailout program such as Greece. These transfers inhibit recipients from taking tough measures while making the contributors resentful.

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