In fairness to him, Enda ruling out a European treaty change here is no different than any other EU leader. His reasons are the same as Cameron, Merkel or Sarkozy. Put simply, he doesn’t think he could win it, and he’s probably right.
But just think of what that says about this generation of European leaders. They know that they are living in unprecedented times. They know that the stakes, the potential breaking up of first the eurozone and then the European Union itself would have consequences far in excess of the situation we find ourselves in today. Yet despite that their default position is still to do as little as is possible and hope that the problem will fix itself?
One of the fascinating aspects of this crisis is that this generation of leaders has access, through polling, to the very gut instincts of the people who elect them. They know that the Irish and the Greeks don’t want a German-run fiscal union, and the Germans, French, Finns and Dutch don’t want to pay for it, and that if one of the leaders tries to drive it forward, he or she will become (even more) unpopular.
They must also know that ultimately, something of that measure is going to be necessary, and that whatever about hating that, their respective publics will never forgive them if they have to suffer the meltdown of a currency collapse, a breakup of the EU and the return of tariffs and protectionism and all the real daily consequences of that.
When Harry Truman left office in 1952 he was hated and regarded as a failure as president. Yet when history looked at what he did, from the Berlin airlift to ending the war with Japan to the Marshall plan and founding NATO and desegregating the army and facing down General MacArthur (an incredibly unpopular action), history realised that Truman was a great man whose actions would serve America well for decades after he had left office. Sometimes, as President Bartlet said, there are things more important than a second term.
What Europe needs now is a Truman, a leader willing to lose the next election because they recognise that his or her winning it is not the most important thing that has to be achieved.