As Americans debate President Obama’s controversial stimulus package, the European Union is struggling to maintain economic harmony among its 27 countries. This weekend, the leaders of the EU met in Brussels for an emergency summit that brought many financial concerns to light.
Of the 27 nations, 16 have abandoned their currencies in favor of the euro, and must accept the terms of the European Central Bank in order to use the international monetary unit. While this binds the member nations together, it also puts them in a different kind of bind: The individual governments may want to take measures to protect their economies, but their international bank may block them, especially if other (possibly financially stronger) nations raise objections. (As Der Spiegel, a weekly German newsmagazine pointed out, “If Germany were to pay into a bailout based on its size relative to other euro zone countries, it would be forced to cover one-fourth of the entire tab.”)
Central and Eastern European countries seem to be feeling the disparity worse than their neighbors to the west. Of the ten newest members of the EU, only Slovakia and Slovenia have adopted the euro, and as The New York Times reported on Monday, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states are close to a “meltdown.” (The Czech Republic and Poland, however, are “doing relatively well,” though relative to what, the report doesn’t say.) CNN reports that Hungary (a member of the EU) and aspiring member Ukraine are receiving assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to weather the recession.
The world will continue to wait and see how the EU will fare in these troubling times, and the travel industries of every nation will hold their collective breaths as financial leaders meet to discuss the futures of Europe’s economies. With increased flights to Central and Eastern Europe (notably from Lufthansa and bmi) and several major hotels opening recently (notably, the Kempinski Hybernská Prague opened on October 15 and the Kempinski Palace Portorož Istria in Slovenia reopened three days later), the supply is greater than ever for a high-end vacation in these countries. Now all they need—and what agents can provide—is the demand.