Video. Interview with Romano Prodi, former president of European Commission: Shale gas is very important to Russia. How should the “lazy Europeans” face the German policy?
Former president of European Commission, Romano Prodi speaks, in an interview offered to caleaeuropeana.ro about the effects of the economic crisis in Europe, the failure of the austerity measures and what should Southern Europe do, including Romania, towards Germany’s policy.
Full interview offered by Romano Prodi, present at the Astana Economic Forum:
Q: How are Russia’s interests in Eastern Europe influenced by the potential shale gas exploration? Meanwhile Bulgaria is against it, and Romania and Ucraine want it.
Romano Prodi: Of course shale gas is very important to Russia,but it is difficult for me to tell that there is direct influence, because in Europe tehre are countries that have prohibited the shale gas, like France, while others are still debating it, like UK. So gas enters more internal politics because it has opened a debate regarding the environment. This how I tackle the matter from a political point of view. Exploting shale gas depends of the national governments, on how strong are the political alliances, which of course, can be influenced by external actor such as Russia. But there are areas where shale gas is located under metropolitan areas or parks, the enviornment is very sensible.
Q: So shale gas is not a threat to Russia?
Romano Prodi: It is, even shale gas from the United States is because they have a great influence to the price. Anything that can decrease the price of gas is negative for Russia.
Q: Why do you think Europe is taking so long to recover and how do you think the euro is going to look after this crisis is gone?
Romano Prodi: The crisis is so deep and so long because we still need unanimity for the most important decisions but in Europe there is not a general agreement, as you know. Europe is fantastic achievement, but takes time to build it and Europe now is still half baked and half raw. So the decision making process is still very slow and the interests from different countries are very different and we have no strong decision maker that can bring together the others. Now we are in a different situation from the past, we don’t have France, Germany and UK to decide together. We have only one country that is stronger than all others, Germany and it is obsessed by inflation.
Q: In a pathological way?
Romano Prodi: It is a deep rooted intellectual position that it goes so deeply that in my opinion, in this moment, it goes against Germany’s interests. Now Germany is in a very special position as an enormous surplus in external commerce, zero inflation and zero growth. This is a typical case in which in any independent country you should put gas in your engine. The German public opinion has been convinced or influenced by the fact that any action in this direction will not be in favor to Germany, but in favor for “lazy Europeans” like you and me. And that is not politically convenient. But really, I do not understand this position and the result is a absurd situation: everybody thinks that Europe is weak and close to collapse, but is actually the only strong currency in the world.
Q: How do you think the “lazy Europeans” should react to the German approach? Is it enough what southerns do now?
Romano Prodi: No, I think they must strongly agree together efficient policy, not against Germany, but because this is necessary for our future. A year ago you could argue that the economic research that saz that there will be growth with austerity, that other demmonstrate that their high debt kills any growth, that the IMF says that austerity is the best medicine for the world. Now we have other research that says that this is not true and not only south should come to an agreement, not only France is the south. France, Italy, Spain, Romania have to present the common platform. They have to push the growth because this is the only medicine against the collapse of the economy and the increase of the debt.
Q: Are you saying that Europe is sick, but the German doctor prescribed he wants and solves only his problems?
Romano Prodi: I am telling more: That the german medicine is not even proper for Germany. It’s simply wrong. Stop.
Q: What are the risks is continue taking the medicine?
Romano Prodi: There is no risk, there is a reality. Africa, United States are on their way to recovery, Europe – zero. If this happened for one year, you would say ok, but when it happens for years and years there must be some mistake.
Q: Do you that European Commission should change its approach?
Romano Prodi: The EC has no power, the power is in the hands of the European states. So the European states must change, that is the problem. The EC, haven’t you noticed that it doesn’t take any position?
Q: Last year, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, said in a statement that it can be seen that Romania and Hungary are backsliding democracy. What do you think about the democratic evolution in these two new EU member states?
Romano Prodi: I don’t judge the internal situation of a country is I haven’t studied it deeply. But I can tell because I’ve been reading that I am worried about some decisions that the hungarian government took.
Q: And about Romania?
Romano Prodi: I haven’t followed the most recent events in Romania.
Q: These days you areattending the Astana Economic Forum, whose main subject is unemployment. In Europe, youth unemployment is at high rates. How should we deal with this problem?
Romano Prodi: Unemployment is a consequence of the crisis, but also a a independent one. Because this new communication, the network revolution is not like previous ones. When the car was invented, the horses were very unhappy, but years later we had new factories, and new cars. With this evolution hundreds of jobs disappeared. The new jobs are better paid, but very few. How can you have young employments when we need to increase the working because of the pension problems and when you have no growth? I know that a few European countries are starting to look for a plan. I hope they will do something, but if there is no growth, there will be no hope for the young generation.
Romano Prodi is an Italian politician and statesman. He served as the Prime Minister of Italy, from 17 May 1996 to 21 October 1998 and from 17 May 2006 to 8 May 2008. He was also the tenth President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.
Caleaeuropeana.ro will provide information, as the official Romanian partner of VI Astana Economic Forum.