Wednesday, 9 May 2012

EU's response to election results risks Europe's stability

The weekend's election results in Greece and France have demonstrated more clearly than ever that the European Union and its austerity policies, designed to preserve its flagship euro currency, are feeding a rise in the popularity of extremist parties.

In Greece, the two centrist parties Pasok and New Democracy together received just 30% of the vote compared with almost 80% three years ago, while a 'radical' left-wing coalition called Syriza secured 17% and the openly fascist Golden Dawn gained 7% giving it seats in the Greek parliament.

France also was not immune to such forces, with Marine Le Pen and her Front National party gaining almost a fifth of votes and coming third in the country's presidential contest - an improvement of more than 2.6 million votes on her father's result in 2007.

Continuing a trend that was already in evidence, voters turned to alternatives to the centrist parties as they refused to budge from the Brussels doctrine and appeared unable to provide people with the responsive government they crave.

As the editorial in today's Guardian puts it, "Democracy matters. When Brussels or Berlin loses sight of that simple fact, voters reach for simpler and uglier solutions."

Stability at risk

For the EU's advocates, who claim the organisation is responsible for preserving peace in Europe since the Second World War, this impetus being given to ultra-nationalist forces by the inability of countries locked within the euro to quickly restore competitiveness and growth to their economies should give pause for thought.

The EU's critics on the other hand have long argued that the only true guarantor of continued peace and stability between European nations is effective democracy, where people feel they have meaningful influence over the rules that affect their lives.

Since the EU's fundamental ethos is political integration, which aims to centralise political decision-making in its largely unaccountable Brussels institutions, it's no surprise that growing numbers of people are coming to realise that the EU system is in reality working against goals of peace and stability by driving Europe away from its post-war democratic revival.

Arrogant elite

Such an idea appears far less shocking when leading EU figures are seen stepping in immediately following a public vote in another country to slap down the result.

Take Peter Altmaier, the chief whip of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party, who said that France's president-elect Francois Hollande needed to learn that while his election victory may herald change in France, it would not be allowed to change anything on the EU level.

Almost glorying in how people and their votes no longer matter when it comes to directing their own political future, Herr Altmaier said: "It is very important indeed to send a message to the markets that nothing will fundamentally change."

Germany's chancellor herself has also stressed her opposition to Hollande's key campaign pledge of reopening the euro fiscal pact, telling the Berlin media "that's just not on."

"We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pact is not negotiable. It has been negotiated and has been signed by 25 countries," she said.

Turning her fire on Greece, Mrs Merkel insisted that Athens must also comply with the stringent terms of its £100bn bailout even though more than 60% of the Greek electorate had voted for parties rejecting those terms.

The European Commission has also weighed in, telling the new French leader that all previous agreements between France and EU were binding despite the election.

"We expect agreements to be ratified. That is the very basis of the EU," said a Commission spokesman. Yet isn't the ability of a new president or parliament to overturn the decisions of a predecessor in response to a majority of public votes the very basis of democracy? Can there be any further doubt that the EU and democracy are fundamentally incompatible.


The moment of truth now looming is not just an economic one over the future of the fiscal pact and the euro, but also a civil and democratic one that goes to the heart of political power on our continent.

Who truly decides how European countries are governed: voters in elections or the technocrats of the EU?

If the EU elite continue on this course of slapping down events in which people cast their votes and expect things to change, they will be playing increasingly dangerous games with the future of Europe.

When those who govern either cannot, or will not, respond to public votes, the necessity of a radical change in course away from EU centralism and its outdated, 1950s goal of political union becomes even more urgent.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

your predictions, made a few years ago and denounced as wild speculation, have now become observastions of the bleedin' obvious.
European must throw off this system.