June 18, 2012 in The World Today
by Morgan Maxwell
If you’re in Europe and hoping to grow your list of countries visited with record speed you may want to check out the Bodensee area. Also known as Lake Constance, the Bodensee is a 207 square mile lake that has shores on Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Public transportation and free trade make it easy to tote schnitzel and pretzels between Germany and Austria without problem.
When it comes to Switzerland, however, things become more complicated. Sure, you don’t have to sacrifice your bratwurst and Pilsner at the border; rather, you’ll have to do quite a bit of guess work at where the country boundary actually falls. With no imposing wall or armored guard strolling into Switzerland may seem no different than other travel within the European Union. There is, however, one important distinction. If you hope to bring back a bag full of miniature Swiss flags and chocolate bars you’ll have to ditch the Euro in favor of the Franc.
The Franc, worth about .8 Euros, is one of the most obvious signs of Switzerland’s distance from the EU. The decision not to join was made in 1992 after voters chose not to participate the EEA (European Economic Area.) While Swiss refusal to join with 27 other countries in Europe’s largest political and economic partnership may have seemed like an act of stubbornness and nationalism in the past, the current economic climate demands we allow reconsideration. With pop culture references to the elusive Swiss bank account it’s easy to imagine the nation as a safe haven for tax evasion but now it seems like it may be offering a different form of financial security.
Greece’s financial struggles have left the fate of the Euro uncertain and many wondering if the switch to a single currency was a wise decision. These doubts are only supported by the mass withdrawal of funds from Greek banks with up to 1.2 billion euros having been removed after the election. More importantly, the European Union and IMF have funneled over 230 billion euros into supporting Greece.
These problems, for the most part, are not something Switzerland has to contend with. Of course all nations have vested interest in the Euro because of its effect on the global economy, but separation from the EU offers Switzerland some measure of safety. So the question is whether the economic safety found in the Swiss Franc is worth sacrificing the benefits of EU membership. If Switzerland, rather than Greece, was in need of economic help it is unlikely it would have received similar support from the European Union. Free trade within the EU has resulted in a much greater diversity of products available along with the creation of an additional 2.75 million jobs, and these are just a few advantages of membership.
So, I guess the conclusion is, in times economic stability a single currency and political partnership provides incredibly worthwhile opportunities. When that stability is threatened, however, the economic future of each member nation hangs in the balance. In the coming years travel around the Bodensee and the value of currency in the area may look very different than it does today.This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.