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Can Europe Really Succeed?

Ever since I can remember, I have always considered myself an European from Portugal.

The European integration was something that has been taught to me since the early times of my education, having grown up in an educational system who, year after year, taught me about all of the benefits of the European union, how it all made sense and how great it was to all the countries involved.

On my history classes, I have always found it confusing how, just a few years before, Europe was at war. Since I was born after it, I guess that the feeling I had was almost as if it had only happened in the history books, and as a consequence of a big mistake taken by a very stupid and dangerous group of people that could not see how it was better if we all got along together. As an example, my grandmother was British and I can remember her telling me that the Germans could not be trusted. I understood her point of view since she felt what it was like to expect a bomb dropping from the sky at any moment but, even so, I have always tried to tell her that it was an unfair way of thinking and that the population of a certain country cannot be confused with the actions of a few crazy people. I also used to tell her that lessons were learned and, so, it made no sense to have that kind of feeling and that now was a new era where we were all Europeans.

But the times that we are living in Europe are starting to make people think again about the differences, what it means to be European, and if it can really succeed.

When things go well, everybody is happy. We all sit together at a table, have a drink, laugh, and go on with our lives. But, as with any family, it's in difficult times that we see the strength and the union between family members.

When a family is strong, family members get together, face the problems, and try to come up with solutions. Everybody tries to help each other and, by doing that, they also end up helping themselves by maintaining the family happily together.

When the European crisis started, everybody acknowledged the problems and, summit after summit, expressed the solidarity between countries, promising to solve the crisis quickly with the solutions that they had provided. That was back in 2009. When I stop to think about it, I now find it difficult to believe anything that comes out of the current European leaders since not one thing they have said would happen, actually happened. Remember how it was just a Greek problem and that it should not have any contagion effect? Remember how there was no possibility of a Greek default?

But what has been the problem?

The problem is that we are not Europeans. We are a group of people who got together as numbers and, unfortunately, reality is showing that people from each country don't really care about people from other countries. It's the opposite of a strong family. First they look at themselves, after at their neighborhood, then at their city, and later at their country. If there is a problem in another country, that's not their problem and, if it turns out to possibly be, instead of trying to solve the problem, the response is "how can I stop it to become my problem".

This is the big problem that Europe is facing right now and, it might mean the end of the European project.

In a strong family, when member A has a problem, the family comes together and tries to solve the problem, even if it means that other family members make sacrifices in order to help the struggling family member.

In Europe, when family member A has a problem, the family comes together but discusses how it can prevent it from becoming the other members problem. And how do they measure it? By looking at the numbers and forgetting about the people.

Forget about what are the roots of their economic problems. Forget trying to help the economies of the struggling countries to recover. It's all about preventing the problems of troubled countries to affect them, even if it means that people will starve to death.

Decision makers call the shots inside nice offices, very far away and with no contact with the local reality apart from the numbers. They try to come up with solutions using spreadsheets, theoretical models, and trying to apply formulas with no relation to each country's reality.

They are just looking at the numbers and expect things to happen automatically, in accordance with a kind of perfect formula that should work in a way that would resemble FarmVille.

Forgetting about people and local reality is why not a single thing has turned out the way it should. I'm not even going to go deep into how theory and magic formulas don't work if only applied in a piece of paper (Dan Ariely has great books about behavioral economics that are very useful if you are interested).

As a comparison, in the USA, everybody is American. Different states work more or less like the different countries in Europe but everybody is American, meaning that if there is a state in trouble, the whole country comes together and tries to solve it. Everybody is in the same boat and that is why it is such a great country.

Unfortunately, Europeans are not all in the same boat, and divergences are increasing instead of diminishing. European leaders are either hiding some evil plan to destroy Europe, or they are just too weak and incompetent.

The facts don't lie. None of the goals they have set has been achieved, the economic situation is worst everyday, social problems are increasing everyday and, worst of all, people just stopped believing that European leaders know anything about what they are doing. The lack of credibility is alarming.

And the reaction of the European leaders to the criticism about the route they have taken is similar to the reaction of the owners of the Titanic when it hit the iceberg: all remained calm because it was unsinkable.

What happened next?

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.