Several of my respected colleagues are Greeks. When I asked one of them how he was upon meeting him recently, his reply demonstrated a critical awareness of the current situation: “Perfect. The sun is shining and it’s raining billions of Euros.” The ideal ingredients for a myth, in fact: a Greek god splits open the heavens and money comes pouring down…Joking apart, this is not a myth but reality: the sun is shining and billions of Euros have been paid out, only not by a Greek god.
The Greek economic crisis has illustrated only too clearly the extent to which the European Union (EU) is currently in a sub-optimal state. Various mechanisms – such as the free movement of goods and people and the Euro (the common European currency) – have brought much prosperity to the Netherlands and other member states.
Nevertheless, there is still much – very much – to be done to optimise Europe. There are 27 national governments, for example, which means 27 sets of national legislation and regulations, 27 national fiscal instruments, 27 national budgets and just as many national central banks. Of course, there is the European Central Bank and what could be seen as an EU president of sorts, but, possessing so little power, they are almost farcical.
Which allows us to draw considerable comparisons with supply chain management: you can only function optimally within and with the chain when a common, integral plan has been agreed upon; when there is just one version of reality, and when there is a set of processes and technology in place, such as sales and operations planning, which are organised in a suitable structure. And that is far from a myth, as increasing numbers of organisations are succeeding in demonstrating how it can be done.
That would be a turn up for the books, if the EU were to have one strategy, one real central bank, one fiscal policy and one budget, and if it were to offer, in addition, opportunities for taking central corrective action in the case of deviation by one or more member states. As the economist Arnold Heertje once said, it’s one world or no world.
However, due to the complexity of history, both of recent and less recent times, it is no easy task to relinquish bits of sovereignty in favour of central control. Returning to the current situation, this means we are in fact partially paralysed by the EU – we have a common currency and a half-baked stability pact yet no real power to enforce it, in fact.
While an approach consisting of integrated planning, implementation and monitoring really is the only option, I fear that, where the EU is concerned, this will remain a myth for many years to come.
Jaap Willem Bijsterbosch is Managing Director of TruEconomy Consulting