The reasons given are legion. Not enough economic stimulus. A deluded sense that spending on the social safety net will pull economies through. Not enough political integration. Too much economic integration. Too much expansion.
But the real problem is psychological. Of course it does not take a genius to see that Europeans really do not think of themselves as Europeans first. They are French or Germans or Swedes and they act accordingly.
I knew this intellectually, but it hit me emotionally this morning at my breakfast table here in Stockholm, Sweden.
I opened the business section of the newspaper. There were pictures of the leaders of all the G20 nations, with a little note about each of their goals.
My first reaction? God help us. I just do not trust middle age men in suits. I am 36 and, frankly, thought this would have passed by now. I blame eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for not instilling any sense of institutional trust in my elders.
But then I focused on the European leaders -- Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy (How did he get an invite?!? Can't we just give Italy's spot at these things to Spain?) and Angela Merkel of Germany.
And I realized that I do not trust any of them to look out for me up here in Scandinavia. I do not trust them to help one bit with a Swedish unemployment rate that will likely hit 12 percent. I do not trust them to in any way protect my job, which depends greatly on the wider economy, or to do anything about my likely skyrocketing tax bill.
Angela Merkel is not worried about Slovenia or Hungary or Sweden, except how they impact German banks. So I am especially thrilled that Sweden will take over the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2009. The Swedish prime minister is simply the only European politician I trust to look after Sweden.
I recently read some talk about how the EU really should have one representative at the G20 talks but that none of the faded old powers will give up their seat at the table (Italy? Really?)
But this goes so much deeper, and I see no real efforts to change it. There must be a Europe-wide change in perception. Europeans must be Europeans. This seems so impossible, apparently, that the EU does not even try and so goes forth with constitutions that the leaders hope can be pushed through national parliaments without popular referendums, which are almost always voted down.
I lived in the former Yugoslavia after the war there in the 1990s. I saw what propaganda could do, drive peoples with everything in common completely and utterly apart. I see no reason it could not bring people together. Continent building, we could call it. Honestly, someone has to think creatively. Maybe embrace the local identity but only in exchange for Europe-wide power. Or political parties that cross national lines. Why do these not exist?
I am only thinking out loud. I just know that the euro will not do it. The European Parliament sure isn't doing it. Europe needs to make some huge psychological leap. Honestly, Obama seems to care more about me than any of the big European leaders.
Or its future will be the same as its G20 present -- weak, divided and with Silvio Berlusconi sitting at the table supposedly representing me.