The new Great Game: Europe looks within for roots of renewal

The need for greater  integration to deal with its debt problems may be the catalyst for the shift to autarchy

The term “the Great Game” referred to the strategic rivalry between the British and Russian empires in Central Asia. Today’s Great Game is the battle for economic survival in a world of low economic growth. In such a world economic nationalism reasserts itself, reducing free trade in goods and services and free movement of capital. Escalating sovereign debt and banking sector problems will favour European introspection.

Individual European economies are modest in size relative to the US. But as a single entity the European Union, including the 17-member eurozone, accounts for more than 25 per cent of global GDP, making it the world’s largest economic unit.

The EU is a more open economy, being the world’s largest exporter and importer of good and services. But around 75 per cent of its trade is within member nations, aided by removal of trade barriers and the common currency. For example, Germany, the EU’s largest economy and one of the world’s largest exporters, sells more than 60 per cent of its products within the EU, much of it to other eurozone members.

The union is largely self-sufficient in food, thanks in part – as in the US – to subsidies, minimum price schemes and trade restrictions which favour farmers. The EU is a net energy importer, although mutually beneficial strategic agreements with Russia and other neighbouring countries rich in energy can provide security of supply. Significant potential natural gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean may emerge as a source of energy for Europe.

Europe has many of the requirements of a closed economy. The need for greater integration to deal with its debt problems may be the catalyst for the shift to autarchy.

As a unit, the eurozone’s current account is nearly balanced, its trade account has a small surplus, the overall fiscal deficit is modest and the aggregate level of public debt, while high, is manageable. But individual members of the eurozone vary widely in terms of income, public finances, external account and debt levels. Greater integration would help resolve some of these variations.

However, it would necessitate a net wealth transfer from richer to weaker members. Stronger, more creditworthy members would also have to underwrite the borrowings of weaker nations – something that net lenders such as Germany, Finland and Netherlands are opposed to.

But even without agreement on eurozone bonds, de facto mutualisation of debt will take place. As more financing for weaker nations moves to official institutions such as the European Central Bank and bailout funds, the commitment of stronger countries, especially Germany and France, increases. They implicitly assume the liabilities of weaker members of the eurozone.

If the eurozone fragments, it will morph into a smaller version of itself, probably consisting of stronger core nations and some smaller entities. Nursing large losses and a significant diminution of wealth, survivors are likely to favour autarchical policies to restore economic health.

Economic difficulties are driving secessionist movements within Europe. While ethnic and political identity is the primary driver, an emerging factor is financial. Catalan nationalists argue that the region is financially burdened by being part of Spain – which they say absorbs 8 per cent of Catalonia’s GDP, or about   €16bn (£14bn) – and would be better off as an independent entity. As Spain implements a harsh austerity program, Catalans, facing sharp cutbacks in public services such as health and education, are convinced that independence would restore their economic fortunes.

Separatist movements are also active in many other European nations. The pressures for secession complicate international economic relationships and the reshaping of the global trading system, forcing a narrow domestic focus.

Irrespective of its policy choices, Europe faces a prolonged period of economic stagnation as it works off its debt burden and undertakes major structural changes to correct imbalances. During this transition, Europe will be forced to focus internally, husbanding savings and wealth needed to absorb the large debt write-offs required. Explicit or implicit capital controls and trade restrictions are natural policy measures to assist in this adjustment, marking a shift to a more closed economy.

 

Satyajit Das is a former banker and the author of ‘Extreme Money’ and ‘Traders, Guns & Money’

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

IT Operations Manager - London - £55,000

£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...

Banking Solicitor NQ+

Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past