In This Review

Saving Europe: How National Politics Nearly Destroyed the Euro
Saving Europe: How National Politics Nearly Destroyed the Euro
By Carlo Bastasin
Brookings Institution Press, 2012, 405 pp

The euro hangs in limbo, and no one can be sure exactly how the current crisis will end. So one might be tempted to ignore a 400-page book written in midstream, most of which concerns the period -- long ago, it seems -- when Silvio Berlusconi still headed Italy, Nicolas Sarkozy still led France, and Greece still seemed salvageable. Yet Bastasin’s book is worth reading for its detailed political narrative of the crisis to date, drawn largely from journalistic sources and focusing on the interaction among decision-makers in Europe’s capitals. Bastasin is unsentimental and rightly rejects simplistic narratives that blame the crisis solely on fiscal profligacy, easygoing cultures, or corruption in Mediterranean countries. He highlights subtler factors, such as the advantages the single currency has afforded German lenders and exporters. In the end, however, Bastasin indulges in some federalist sentiments. The euro should be maintained, he urges, by surrendering outdated national identities and embracing cosmopolitan political solidarity -- a solution that seems neither technocratically appropriate nor politically feasible.