Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is reputed to be a sensible, level-headed lady. So when she claimed in the eurozone bail-out negotiations that their failure could threaten continued peace between Europe's nations, the media latched on to her words. Could it really be true that, 66 years after a world war that had been calamitous for her country and its people, the leader of Germany was warning of a similar horror? Would that be the price to be paid by Europe's citizens if their single currency area were to disintegrate?
A fair comment is that Merkel's remarks caused bemusement to many not directly involved in the negotiations and able to maintain a degree of objectivity. The United Nations has 193 members, while the European Union has 27 and the eurozone 17. One hundred and seventy-six countries do not have the euro as their currency and 166 do not even belong to the EU.
According to Mrs Merkel, the adoption and retention of the euro are basic conditions of peace between nations. We might then expect discord and tension-indeed discord and tension verging on military hostility-among the 166 unfortunate countries that have not participated in "the European construction" engineered by France and Germany since 1957.
But that is not what we find. According to Wikipedia, the world has five ongoing "wars", three of which are actually large-scale outbreaks of civil disturbance in the Arab world. Only one, Kenya's military engagement in Somalia, resembles a war-like conflict between sovereign states. But arguably even that does not count, since the Kenyan incursion is in fact a policing operation. The world at large-the 166 countries outside the EU-is at peace; it is at peace even though the 166 countries do not belong to the EU or enjoy the benefits of the single European currency. Sorry, Mrs Merkel, but there is no relationship between the euro and the avoidance of war.