Monday, April 14, 2014

A French Twist

For more than 60 years now European statesmen have dreamed of a Europe that could see its larger interests as a whole, rather than a collection of local, parochial problems played out on a larger and slightly distant stage. With the creation of the Euro and de facto the financial elements of such a broader polity, the problem of knitting together a more integrated European-wide system of governance has loomed larger. Especially in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis and the pivotal role of the ECB, one might hope that some such larger interest wold be the dominant key of this year's European Parliamentary elections.

But alas, leaders respond to their voters, EU voters organize by national interest, and once again the larger electorate fragments into an aggregate of smaller ones. How this will play out in France--a nation both essential to Europe for its size and prestige and particularly wracked with intractable economic woes--is displayed with characteristic finesse here in a recent analysis by Le Monde's Francoise Fressoz.

Briefly summarized, Francois Hollande's Socialist government, wildly unpopular with voters after 2 years of economic failures, has decided to forget its promises to Brussels that it would contain its budget deficits, and will instead distribute tax breaks on all sides in the hope of provoking that elusive expansion that would make everything right. Cue the EU elections, close-up on Martin Schulz, another tepid 'Socialist' whose program proclaims 'A Different Europe,' one more oriented to social solidarity. So can the French Socialists use his campaign to change the conversation, declaring their enthusiasm for his campaign's sub-text that fiscal discipline isn't so important after all? No one can exactly say so, but that's the highly interesting hint that Fressoz offers from her insider's vantage point. Listen closely as the EU election draws near.


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