Why Europe Is Grounded
TIME is absolutely right in asking why Europe can't get off the ground [July 12]. The short answer is, It's the euro, stupid. The concept of a one-size-fits-all common currency to be shared by such diverse countries requires some form of fiscal federalism to which all member states would be opposed. Either the euro countries restructure their banking sectors or the peripheral Mediterranean member states dump the euro while the northern core countries go it alone. Deficit reduction is necessary, but growth should also be stimulated to reduce the biggest risk of all: high unemployment. The latter is a ticking time bomb that, unless defused, could blow the whole European Union out of the water.
The European Union will never realize its full potential as a political and economic bloc as long as member states fail to look beyond their own parochial interests. Europe's inability to harmonize fiscal policies and labor laws highlights the problem of valuing local allegiances over the Union. Beyond economics, countries elsewhere should think twice about the wisdom of joining regional blocs. The E.U. experience seems to indicate they are rocky propositions at best.
Quezon City, The Philippines
Your story on Europe's economic crisis was much appreciated, and you are certainly right to point out that the continent faces enormous challenges. But you fail to assess the political progress that has been made in the past two years of crisis. The recent Lisbon Treaty is a humble but still important step in the process of European integration. With a democratically elected Parliament that now shares decisionmaking power with the Council, and the establishment of a European External Action Service, the E.U. is giving itself the means to achieve greater goals. European integration is a long-term project.
With the euro nations facing growing uncertainty, investors are forced to question their assumptions about Europe's overall economic and political environment. The markets have sent the message to European governments that their excessive spending and debt have made them vulnerable. The challenge with Europe is political decisionmaking. There is a European Central Bank but there is no real central decisionmaking body on fiscal matters. This makes it difficult for decisions to be made in a timely manner.
Crossing the Strait
Re "The Moment" [July 12]: The brief comment on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed by Taiwan and mainland China in June seems to be based on the mistaken perception of a similarity between Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is profoundly misleading. Taiwan is not Hong Kong and will never be like Hong Kong. Taiwan is a full democracy where the popularly elected government is accountable to its voters. This means that the ECFA has to be approved by the directly elected national legislature in Taiwan. TIME's analogy about the development of democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong is flawed and utterly baseless. Taiwan's democracy is the hard-earned accomplishment of the people of Taiwan, not something Beijing has ever been in any position to promise or grant.
Johnny Chi-chen Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office,
A Fishy Choice
It was clumsy at best and highly irresponsible at worst to encourage readers to sample cut-price abalone in "Five Reasons to Visit Pusan" [July 12]. A large amount of abalone sold in Asian markets is in fact perlemoen, the South African variant of the gastropod. The catching and selling of endangered abalone is prohibited in South Africa, so consumption indirectly supports violent syndicates, damages local communities and further depletes perlemoen numbers. Perhaps there was another delicacy with which you might have whetted your readers' appetites.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town's Elegant Hat
The views of Philip van der Spuy in Inbox, regarding what he calls the "wrong" location of Cape Town Stadium, are not widely shared in the city [July 5]. What was a largely unused, decidedly tatty and crime-ridden open space has been developed into a stunning and sustainable urban park and sports precinct. The stadium in no way defiles our iconic mountain. Invictus author John Carlin called it "that beautifully elegant Coco Chanel hat of a stadium" and I couldn't agree more.
Cape Town, South Africa