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The Finnish legitimacy and the global ethic
by Thanos Kalamidas
2012-07-13 10:24:00
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The Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen for one more time is rolling her sleeves and getting ready for collateral negotiations, this time with Madrid all in the name of the Finnish people and the European unity. and Jutta is just the obvious example but a lot of times the last few years when it comes to European politics the question that rises is if everything legitimate is also ethic; and I’m afraid most of the time the answer is no.

What Finland did with Greece, is doing now with Spain and might do it with Cyprus or the next one in the queue is absolutely legitimate and the argument that the whole thing is to protect the interests of the Finnish people absolutely right. The Finnish debt is low, especially compared to other European states; but still not negative and the country needs to borrow money every so often. After all we all often forget – unfortunately that ‘often’ also includes the Finns – that Finland is not Nokia and design but a poor agricultural country in the arctic. So helping the European treasury and the bailouts is not something Finns can do light-hearted taking money out of their savings. Finns have to borrow the amount that will cover their participation in the bailouts and Finland has to pay back the borrowed money when time comes. With interest!

‘With interest’ is the part that complicates things a bit and the line between legitimate and ethic becomes a bit imperceptible. Only a bit yet. Finland is one of the few that still enjoy the triple A status when it comes to borrowing money; which translates into very low interests. So Finland borrows money to help Greece, pain and whoever comes next on her own risk and lends the bailout of those countries with some interest. Actually a much higher interest due the size of the risk. But hey, this capitalism and there is no ethic in capitalism and at the moment we are still on the limits between legitimate and ethic even though in this case we are talking about a partner, an ally and a friend. But in capitalism relationships like that don’t count in front the colour of the money. Again, these are the rules of the game and from the minute they all play the same game they have to obey the rules they agreed.

But it doesn’t stop there, does it? Because then Jutta is coming and says, listen everything is fine and we are going to make some kind of profit with this exchange but what happens if you bankrupt? How am I going to pay my debt which rose because of you? And because I don’t think you will survive and you will bankrupt one way or another doesn’t matter how much help you will get I want some stronger guarantees that will cover my money whatever happens to you. And actually for the good of my people I’m going one step further; I’m going to stop or boycott any help until you give me what I want and how I want it. And you know what will happen to you if you don’t get help now! And this is the part where the limits between legitimacy and ethic became visual.

And it became visual because all this time we are talking about partners. Partners that have helped you in the past and they will suppose to be there in the future. Because this is why you became a partner, because you believed that united makes you stronger. And you did show knowing the risks and the economic domino effect that scares everybody so much is part of the risk. In a partnership you don’t chose the risks. Because nobody asked you for collateral guarantees when you joined the partnership, they only asked honour and respect to the ethics that unite this Union.

Nothing, absolutely nothing obliges Finland to participate in the bailout except the ethic. The ethic that united the states that created the European union, Finland’s partners and manifested that the Union was, "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities... in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail." Every single element, every single word, every single meaning is a reference to …ethics! The above text is included in every single treaty from the very first treaty that put the foundations of the Union in Paris at 1948. And is repeated in every single treaty including the last one the Lisbon treaty. The European Union is based in ethics, founded on ethics and united with ethic. But what is separating it is legitimacy.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-07-13 11:02:12
Indeed Thanos, well put. Unfortunately solidarity has become a lonely concept nowadays, days of neo-nationalism and neo-fascism, and yet it and the ethical realm to which it points will determine the future of the idea that is Europe. The EU will live or die based on whether or not solidarity and the ethical is put into practice or remains a nice sounding theoretical word signifying nothing while we pay attention to what is legal and what is economical and can be counted by the bankers who seems to have taken over the union.

The obtuseness and myopia of our politicians parading as statesmen is appalling. What they don’t seem to have grasped yet is that the economy or the euro is merely the external manifestation of solidarity which has ethical-spiritual implications; in fact economic difficulties in a federal union are the real test of fires to determine who are the real friends and who are the friends of the good time. In good times soccer games and circuses may do the trick in cementing a union. It is only in hard times when sacrifices are needed that a union goes through the test of fire. It is then that symbols and myths and a vision are very much needed to create a union beyond the crass euro and mere economic considerations, for not by bread alone does man live. When the Roman emperors began offering bread and games to the people, the vision of what Rome represented was already declining. Sooner or later it would translate into the dissolution of the empire and of civilization itself. Food for thought there.

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