Europe on Edge
Europe remains a hot spot in world news—and in end-time prophecy. What will this weekend’s election in Greece bring?
“Europe on Edge Over Crisis” said the top headline of the June 15, 2012, Wall Street Journal. Other front-page headlines highlighted the highly charged elections in Greece and Egypt: “Sour Mood of Greeks Makes Vote Cliffhanger” and “Egypt’s Elections in Turmoil After Rulings Boost Military.”
We’ll plan to look at the tense situation in Egypt in another post, but now let’s look at Europe and how tiny Greece seems to be the straw threatening to break the back of Europe as we know it today.
After financial finagling to get into the eurozone in the first place, Greece continued to live beyond its means for years. But the party could not go on forever, and the Greek debt crisis has roiled markets around the world for a couple of years now. Europe, and especially Germany, demanded tough austerity measures in return for packages of bailouts.
But in Greece’s inconclusive May elections, the tide turned toward those opposing austerity. “Syriza, the upstart party on the radical left … promises to tear up the Greek bailout deal’s painful reforms. Syriza and its firebrand leader, Alexis Tsipras, surged from nowhere to second place in May’s inconclusive voting, striking fear in European capitals of a cataclysmic standoff that could fracture the euro zone” (Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012).
Tsipras is gambling that the other European countries wouldn’t really kick Greece out of the eurozone or enforce the austerity requirements. But is this gamble realistic? Greece’s little economy may be the least of European leaders’ worries as the debt crisis continues to widen to the larger economies across southern Europe, especially Spain.
Too big to bail out?
“That would push Europe’s financial resources to the limit because Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, is significantly larger than any of the other countries that have needed assistance” (“Worries Grow Spain Will Need Broader Aid,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012).
And, of course, Italy’s economic problems still threaten to blow up as any economic contagion sets off a domino effect throughout the region.
British historian Niall Ferguson and U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini warned on Der Spiegel Online June 12, “A silent run on the banks of the euro zone periphery has been underway for two years now … and ‘smart money’—large uninsured deposits of high net worth individuals—has quietly exited Greek and other ‘Club Med’ banks.”
All this contributes to their thesis: “The European Union was created to avoid repeating the disasters of the 1930s, but Germany, of all countries, has failed to learn from history. As the euro crisis escalates, Berlin should remember how the banking crisis of 1931 contributed to the breakdown of democracy across Europe. Action is urgently needed to stop history from repeating itself.”
Behind the scenes
It’s not that leaders are avoiding action. All during this long crisis, Europe’s best and brightest diplomats have run to and fro, working behind the scenes to strengthen the powers and controls of European institutions to try to prevent the crisis from getting out of hand.
As Reuters reported June 13: “The euro zone needs much stronger banking and fiscal integration and enhanced governance, and the road to achieving these will be spelled out by a report of top European Union officials, draft conclusions for the June 28-29 summit of EU leaders showed.”
Chancellor Merkel’s warnings
Germany, Europe’s largest and strongest economy, has been called on to bear the greatest share of the bailouts. But “Germany’s strength isn’t infinite” and Germany alone can’t solve the crisis, warned Chancellor Angela Merkel (“Germany Is Urging New Efforts From Big Economies,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012).
Chancellor Merkel doesn’t see Europe as the only cause of the global economic problems, so she called on leaders around the world to do their part. She called on the U.S. to reduce its budget deficit and warned Europe against “‘false solutions’ to the debt crisis and again pressed for the euro zone to implement tighter fiscal controls” (ibid.).
What will happen now?
So is Europe acting to prevent history from repeating itself? Some might wonder if the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting and strengthening of powers are themselves the greater dangers to democracy. And these efforts are sure to increase in a passionate effort to save Europe’s economy. In an emergency, everything changes. In a full-blown crisis, the unthinkable can happen.
Bible prophecy predicts that in the end times a bloc of 10 key leaders will join together in a short-lived but extremely powerful European government that will change the course of the world (Revelation 17:12-13).
When this government comes together, it will not be long before the promised return of Jesus Christ to end human misrule and establish the wonderful Kingdom of God. Read more about this in our sections on the “End Times” and the “Kingdom of God.”