How the Maastricht Treaty has changed Europe

Europe's press takes stock of the impact of the Maastricht Treaty 25 years after it was signed. Is the treaty the right basis for European cooperation today? Has the idea of a common currency stood the test of time or is the euro doing more harm than good?

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

National egoisms weaken the Union

The Maastricht Treaty itself isn't the problem, the Süddeutsche Zeitung stresses:

“National egoisms are making the Union weak. When countries like Poland or Hungary play the national card in the refugee crisis, Europe appears divided. When German politicians criticise the European Commission over deposit protection, the institution's role is undermined. When Italy ignores the rules for bank reform and France the rules for debt limits, the treaties that back these rules up seem useless. It is entirely at the discretion of each capital to weigh the jointly agreed terms of the treaty against their own national interests. Those who decide in favour of the joint agreements decide in favour of Europe. Which is why it is true without qualification that Europeans hold their fate in their own hands.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Don't throw away the achievements

The clearly positive overall results of the treaty highlight the need to save the endangered project of European integration, El Mundo warns:

“Naturally, in a number of aspects the Maastricht Treaty was made to fit, rather than having fit from the start. We only need to look at the convergence criteria that were established for countries to be allowed to join the single currency and which France and Germany were the first to disregard. … But we must nonetheless recognise that the whole EU integration process has been beneficial for the vast majority of the citizens on this continent. In the case of Spain there can be no doubt that the last 25 years would have been very different if we hadn't managed to be part of the Economic and Monetary Union right from the start. … For this reason it is crucial that the EU politicians and governments redouble their efforts to support a project that is now more threatened than ever by xenophobic and totalitarian ideologies.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Germany least to blame for weak euro

The US government's claim that Germany is gaining an unfair trade advantage from the undervalued euro is not entirely unfounded, but Germany is not primarily responsible for this state of affairs, Corriere del Ticino points out:

“Not Germany but those states that violate the rules of the monetary union are to blame for the weakness of the euro. Despite their excessive deficits and debts they refuse to take the necessary steps to reform their budgets and their economies. The European Central Bank (ECB) is encouraging their recklessness with its zero-percent interest rate and its unlimited government bond-buying programme. … But Germany is not entirely free of blame. The government complains about the ECB's lax monetary policy, which blatantly contradicts its principles, but ultimately it accepts the manipulation of the interest rates and is doing nothing to stop the bank buying the bonds of struggling states.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Boost domestic demand

NRC Handelsblad also agrees with the criticism from the US and calls on countries with large surpluses to up their domestic demand:

“For Germany the current euro exchange rate is too low, and Schäuble would also prefer it to be higher. But Germany has no influence on the monetary policy that has led to the low exchange rate. ... Both Germany and the Netherlands have long stressed that the southern countries must increase their competitiveness. But on the other hand they too face a clear-cut task: to stimulate domestic demand in countries with a large trade surplus. For that reason Berlin - and to a certain extent also The Hague - have room to manoeuvre. Otherwise huge trade surpluses like those of Germany and the Netherlands will spark even more criticism. And that criticism is not always unjustified.”