European dream may be among dead in political earthquake

By John Lloyd
May 27, 2014

French National Front party deputies Gilbert Collard and Marion Marechal-Le Pen attend the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris

Earthquakes struck all over Europe this past weekend, as the votes for the European Parliament came in.

Parties on both the left and the right wanting to loosen ties to the European Union had notable victories in the UK, France, Spain and several other nations.

The results have gravely wounded the European project, which is to move the 28 EU member nations to an “ever-closer union.” The project may, indeed, have been killed. Here’s why:

1. Britain may leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on the issue if the Conservatives win the next election. The UK may see a vote for an exit if he fails to assure the electorate that he can deliver a reform plan for the EU that returns substantial powers to national capitals.

It isn’t a hopeless quest. Repatriating political power to the nation-states may be more appealing than an “ever closer union” in nations where anti-EU forces are growing. But if Cameron can’t convince the European government to reform and Europe remains weak, with sluggish growth, an exit from Europe would be the likely answer.

2. The members of the European Parliament elected by euro-skeptic parties range from the mild members of the Alternativ für Deutschland party, who think the euro currency is bad for Germany, to the fascists of the Hungarian Jobbik and the Greek Golden Dawn. But they are united in that they go the EU’s capital in Brussels to do something radical.

In many countries, a seat in Brussels is a kind of sinecure for a politician who wishes to retire or has failed to get into his or her national parliament. There are  many hard workers: but there are as many absentees. Debates are tedious affairs, slowed by translation into 24 official languages, the words absorbed by rows of often empty seats.

This will no longer be the case. The wrecking crews have come, and those who believe in the EU for its real potential will have to fight them. If they cannot summon enough courage and the antis’ message continues to ring around Europe, the union is in trouble.

3. The adoption of the euro in 2000 was premature. Even Paul Krugman, friendly to Europe’s social democratic welfare states, believes so. It has been stabilized, but not yet saved. The anti-austerity forces might, by attacking Germany, wreck the agreements that have kept the worst-hit states – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland – from default and an exit from the euro.

Germany is the linchpin of the European Union. It has done enough to guarantee a fragile stability, but reluctantly and with internal turmoil that so far Chancellor Angela Merkel  has been able to quell. If Germany — “a colonial power,” as left-wing Greeks, Spaniards and many more appear to think — loses the will to sustain these economies, another crisis may result, and it would perhaps this time be fatal to the euro and the European Union.

The true scale of the change wrought by the election results will become evident in the days ahead. It will be a test for traditional EU politicians whose mantra has ever been “more Europe” and whose job descriptions have not included doing the hard, dirty politics that are now required.

TOP PHOTO: French National Front party deputies Gilbert Collard (R) and Marion Marechal-Le Pen attend the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, May 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

6 comments

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Tribal nationalism is not in your best interests! It’s a real shame to see these rather crude and impractical viewpoints popping up all over the place. Artificial tribal barriers should be torn down not propped up. They serve no utility other than rhetorical and offering a false sense of belonging, importance, and “meaning”. You, uneducated populace, are being used by those who seek their narrow, dogmatic ends. It’s true just as much in the US as the EU. It’s one planet our species may have already irreparably damaged – we need to act now – politically, socially, and economically – as one species rather than some ignorant herd defined by a line on a picture.

Posted by Nurgle | Report as abusive

@ Nurgie: can’t you just post your opinions once and let it go at that?

Posted by explorer08 | Report as abusive

Those who are acquainted with history and kept close eye on recent developments won’t mind saying that we have, for the first time, nascent signs of real democracy in the Europe. I’m not sure why so many commentators choose to see elections in bad light. What we have is the effort to establish link between Commission (that arguably run amok since inception) and electorate. We now have better, more democratic Europe. There’s a lot of talk about far right, yet little talk about far left that also made gains solid enough to rock the establishment. We have parties and movements that are far from ideologies and seek EU whose economy serves the people, in complete opposition to the crap that’s imposed on the continent since artificial crisis kicked in.

Imo, elections that would result with perpetuation of status quo would be far more dangerous than shake up we’re witnessing. EU executive had the pedal to the metal, running over people (electorate) with no check and balances whatsoever. It is now forced to feel the pulse, pull the hand brake and recalculate direction, and that’s a really good thing… for the Union and its citizens.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive

@ Nurgle:

Wow, seven identical posts!

“Tribal” nationalism definitely is not in interests of anybody but select politicians. However, the balance of centralized vs. decentralized decision making is a real-life, everyday issue in any big country, even more in a huge, multi-country, multi-ethnic union.

Posted by yurakm | Report as abusive

As one who is well “acquainted with history and kept close eye on recent developments” I take the opposite view that “we have, for the first time, nascent signs of real democracy in the Europe (sic.)” – in fact “we” have an undemocratic (those members cannot be de-selected), barely elected (percentage turnouts for EU elections in the lowest percentiles) self-serving, pointless, bullying, stupid, monolithic, quasi-communist, seven-headed monster – which squats in Brussels, soaking up enormous sums of money and produces nothing but endless red tape and reams of inconsequential sub-legal gobbledegook. It’s a misguided liberal-social experiment (failed) which has grown many evil tentacles and is now far, far too big for its bossy boots. Sovereign nations are beginning to realise exactly what they signed away to the EUSSR in treaties past – and it’s time the monster was slain.

Posted by ph1lt3rt1p | Report as abusive

Reuters, what’s going on? There are several identical comments.

Right, bring down borders, let people from your former colonies to get to EU and live there doing nothing and gaining profit from you! It will be great to oversee outcomes of that migration in 20-30 years!
Oh, that will be really interesting days!

Posted by MAHHARIUS | Report as abusive