Author will address world affairs conference later this month

“I predicted it in my book, ‘Design for a New Europe,’” said John Gillingham, a history professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, who will be among the speakers at the conference on the European Union and Germany presented by the Peoria Area World Affairs Council March 30 and 31 at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria.

“The European Union started out with a great deal of optimism,” said Gillingham of Europe’s unification efforts that started back in the 1950s.

The author of three books on the evolving European economy, Gillingham said the EU “is facing life-threatening issues because of the shortfalls of the European monetary union.”

“Economic convergence has not taken place because European economies have become more dissimilar over the years,” he said.

All bonds are considered equal, bearing the same amount of risk, under the EU charter, said Gillingham, who holds out little hope for an economic recovery under the union’s present regulations.

“The problems are far greater than Greece. After Greece, it’s likely to be a rolling crisis from one thing to another. The problem is there’s just too much debt. It’s unsustainable,” he said.

John McCormick, a professor of political science at Indiana University — Purdue University at Indianapolis, will argue that the union is sustainable.

“There are three benefits to the European Union. The first is peace in Europe. Since the union, there’s been the longest spell of peace in Europe in 2,000 years. It’s been so successful that people forgot (past strife),” he said.

“The second is that the EU has allowed 27 countries to be a global actor, forming the biggest markeplace in the world while the third is that it’s an institutional model now viewed as a new way of doing business. If it’s such a bad idea, why is everyone copying it?” asked McCormick.

Gillingham has suggested that European countries rework the union concept. “There is a way to reform the union but they don’t find a three-tier system acceptable,” he said.

What Gillingham suggests is a system that would have the more successful countries use the euro while other nations would use a combination of the euro and their own currency. Countries with debt problems would strictly use their own currency until achieving solvency, he suggested.

Other speakers at the conference include João Vale de Almeida, ambassador and head of the European Union delegation to the United States; Onno Huckmann, consul general of Germany; and Jennone Walker, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

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Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or