March 20, 2012
WARSAW — Here in Poland, where dreary communist-style apartment blocks still dominate the landscape, the euro was once hailed as a fast-track ticket to the economic big league.
Now, after years of problems in the euro zone, Poles have realized that the big league ticket was in their pockets all along. Their own currency, the zloty, has buffered Poland from the turbulence surrounding it, and few here are in any rush to adopt the euro, even though Poland agreed to do so when it joined the European Union in 2004.
The euro, currently shared by 17 of the 27 E.U. countries, used to be a status symbol of economic success, endowing those who gave up their pesetas and lire with cheap borrowing and quick growth. Today it’s a burden, and Europe’s debt crisis has turned upside down old assumptions about the benefits of wider integration.
In Greece, whose weakness is at the heart of Europe’s troubles, policymakers privately say they never should have adopted the euro but are now trapped, with the economic consequences of leaving the currency more perilous than the pain of staying on. Other euro members rue having to contribute to the bailouts that are propping up Portugal and Ireland as well as Greece, and resent that giant Germany is calling many of the shots.