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What’s up, Europe? Brussels muddles through the crisis

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Kai Ryssdal: We go to Brussels, Belgium, this Wednesday — the political center of the European economic story. It’s the headquarters of the European Union. Matina Stevis covers the EU for Dow Jones. Matina, good to have you with us.

Matina Stevis: Great to be with you.

Ryssdal: So what’s the big story in Brussels today that’s not in the papers? What are you guys talking about?

Stevis: Well I’m afraid it is in the papers, or actually it’s not in the papers because of our time zone difference, it’s not in the papers quite yet. But the big story as it has been for the last two years is the crisis and what they’re going to do about it. It’s pretty much muddling through on and on as it has been.

Ryssdal: Is Brussels a little bit like Washington in that there’s that “Inside the Beltway” mentality?

Stevis: Absolutely. I mean, I’ve never lived in Washington, but I speak to colleagues who live there and cover the Hill, cover the Treasury, and it really feels like the same type of place. A kind of place of self-selection of officials, politicians, and the feeling that no progress is being made when it should be made — especially at a time that’s so critical, like it is right now for Europe and for the euro.

Ryssdal: How’s morale? I mean, this is kind of a sideways question. But if what’s happening over there were happening over here, back in the financial crisis, things were miserable here. Are people depressed about it?

Stevis: People are definitely depressed about it — more so in some places than others. I go to Athens a lot for work. I was born and raised in Athens. I can tell you first hand that the mood in Athens is absolutely horrible, but of course Greece is an extreme case. That said, any conversation you’ll have with fellow Europeans — even in Britain, which has its own currency and doesn’t use the euro — everything revolves around this crisis and concerns about the future. The uncertainty is really taking its toll. And I think you can see that even reflected in conversations you’ll overhear at a bar or cafe, but also in indicators like consumer confidence.

Ryssdal: Matina Stevis with Dow Jones in Brussels, thank you.

Stevis: Thanks.

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