Fallout: The Financial Crisis

European summit opens old faultlines

Stephen Beard Mar 2, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

European summit opens old faultlines

Stephen Beard Mar 2, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: Across the Atlantic, European Union leaders met over the weekend to figure out their unified approach to the financial fallout. Marketplace’s European correspondent Stephen Beard joins us. Stephen, I understand the summit veered off-script.

Stephen Beard: Yes, an old faultline apparently opened up. The old divisions between East and Western Europe surfaced quite painfully at this summit. This I would say is probably the worst split since the two sides of Europe were unified after the collapse of communism almost 20 years ago. Most of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe — countries like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic — are now members of the European Union. But it’s pretty clear from this summit that many of them feel West Europeans are not helping them out in this crisis. The Hungarians feel that in particular.

Radke: What’s with the “Iron Curtain” comment?

Beard: Well, this is what the Hungarians say is going to happen unless they get more help from the West. What Hungary asked for at this summit was an E.U. bailout fund for the East worth about $240 billion to help out these countries of Eastern Europe that are far worse hit than their West European counterparts by this crisis. Germany, which would pick up the largest part of the bill for this, said no — we’ll do it on a country by country basis.

Radke: I think Americans are peering over there saying, where is the European unity?

Beard: Uh, well there’s a lot of disunity, I’m afraid. And it’s not just the Hungarians. I mean the Poles — Poland is the superpower, if you like, of Eastern Europe — they’re pretty upset, too. They feel they’ve been excluded by Westerners. They held a mini summit at the weekend just before the main summit. But the Hungarians, you know, have been really the most apocalyptic. I mean, they’ve been talking about social unrest in the East if they don’t get more help, mass unemployment, mass migration. And the prosepct of this new iron curtain rattling down acrsos the continent, this time designed to keep the Easterners out of the West.

Radke: OK, Stephen, so this is a European battle. What are the wider implications of this?

Beard: This summit, this E.U. summit in Brussels this weekend, was designed to pull the Europeans together, to get them all onboard, to get them unified in preparation for the really big summit in London next month, the summit of the group of 20 countries. Clearly, if the Europeans are bickering, the prospect of a unified result from that G20 summit in London looked pretty remote.

Radke: Marketplace’s Stephen Beard. Thank you.

Beard: OK, Bill.

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