The season that announces a shock of European politics

The disappointing results of the euro area and the crisis of the center-left parties announce a possible turning point with the European elections next May.

Ten years after the 2008 global crisis, the eurozone continues to live in a state of suffering. 2018 ended with the worst economic result in recent years. Eurozone income grew by 0.8% in the last quarter of the year. Unemployment fluctuates around 8 percent on average; in Italy it remains steadily above 10 percent and in Spain it exceeds 14 percent In the United States, where the global crisis began in 2008, national income grew by around 3 percent in 2018, while unemployment reached its lowest level in decades.

1. The euro was born at the beginning of the century to make the eurozone an area of high development able to compete globally with the US and the nascent Chinese power. According to the forecasts of the European Commission offices, unemployment in the European Union would have been reduced to a lawl level fluctuating between 2 and 3 percent within the first decade. Forecasts that could have not suffered a more resounding denial (R. Paladini Macron's European Sovranism).

The most surprising event is the recession that, during the second half of the year, affected, in addition to Italy, Germany, the largest economic power in Europe and the fourth at the global level. The fall of the economy is reflected in the political scene, and the CDU-CSU center-right coalition systematically lost votes in the recent elections of some important Landers. In other words, the eurozone crisis pushes towards a shift of the political axis towards the extreme right, as in Spain where, in addition to the growth of the center-right Ciudadanos, the extreme right of Vox is growing (A.Baylos España y las próximas elecciones europeas)...

The stagnation of the economy, the persistence of a high rate of unemployment and the increase in inequalities have provoked a general shift to the extreme-right of European politics with the  collapse of  the social democracy and, in general, of the center-left parties, which at the beginning of the century had been the main architects of the changeover to the euro.

The cases of France, Germany, and Italy are clear confirmation of the center-left parties’ crisis. In the last twenty years of the century, France had been with Mitterand, Delors, and Jospin the undisputed protagonist of the changeover to the euro -  in effect, of its invention. With the resounding defeat of Hollande, in the spring of 2017, the French Socialist Party, reduced to a humiliating 6 percent of the vote, has essentially disappeared from the political scene. So, Emmanuel Macron, a leader with no party at the head of the improvised "En marche" movement, rose to the Elysée Palace - a movement that had proclaimed itself neither right nor left.

But two years have not still passed when the polls attribute to Macrons’ movement   20 percent of the votes in the next European elections - a result that makes?? Macron's movement in competition with Marine Le Pen's new "Rassemblement National" which could be the first party in the May elections.

In Germany, where the social democracy that included among its ranks famous chancellors such as Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, and finally at the turn of the century, Gerard Schroeder, has suffered in the 2017 elections the most serious defeat in its post-war history, getting only about 20 percent of the votes. Also continuing to lose votes in the elections of the Lander in which has been voted. While the current polls attribute to it around 15 percent of the votes for the upcoming European elections, when it could be overtaken not only by the Greens but also by "Alternative for Germany", the new extreme-right party.

In this wake of defeats we equally find the Democratic Party in Italy which, after having exceeded 40 percent of the votes in the 2014 European elections, has lost more than half of the votes in the political elections of March 2018, when Five Stars Movement and the extreme right League have surprisingly won over fifty percent of the votes, forming the new governing coalition. A resounding novelty in a country that in the last decades had always seen the alternance between Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia and the center-left Democratic Party.

The new coalition is made up of heterogeneous parties by origin and programs. With the League of Matteo Salvini as a genuinely extreme right-wing party, which, as all the European rightwing parties,  is characterized by the fight against immigration, "law and order", and the reduction of taxes as a way of reducing the role of the state in the economic and social field. On the other side, we find Five star, the movement led by Luigi Di Maio, who while going hunting for votes proclaiming himself "neither right nor left", moves along the lines of a wider public intervention and social policies, exemplified by citizenship income, which in the past would have been considered left-wing objectives.

A government coalition in many ways unnatural, but without alternatives, if not potentially a right-wing alternative, led by the League, which fluctuates around one-third of the voters, while the Five star movement is losing ground according to the current polls. So, for the first time, at the European elections, Italy, a founding country of the Union and the euro, traditionally faithful to European politics.  will present himself with a government made up of parties if not formally eurosceptic essentially hostile to the eurozone policy.

The crisis of the center-left parties and the advance of the Eurosceptic rightwing movements in the three main eurozone countries are destined to be reflected in the composition of the next European Parliament and, consequently, in the European Commission. The decision-making power will ultimately be transferred to the European Council of Ministers, within which a blocking minority could be able to determine the politics of the EU. In essence, the weight of governments and, in particular, that of the three main UE member states  (Germany, France, and Italy) representing over 200 million citizens - the majority of the eurozone’s population - will overtake the role of the technocratic European Commission. This will not mean an instant and general change in eurozone policy. But it will revolutionize its governance model.

Each government will return to being responsible for its own economic and social policy, without being able to assign the responsibility on the EU bodies. The euro will return to the original role set in Maastricht of a single currency without the overlap of arbitrary as well as meaningless fiscal policies centered on the requirement of a balanced budget. The return to the original eurozone rules will allow for a flexible economic policy in the context of a budget deficit of three percent of GDP- a limit that could be temporarily overcome in relation to particular circumstances resulting from grave domestic problems as well as from the international economic context.

Yet,  the European political framework will become clearer, and the governments of the member states will have to account to the voters of their choices, without being able to hide their responsibilities behind the excuse of the measures dictated by Brussels. The euro can only survive by freeing its role from the failed paradigm of austerity-structural reform that has dominated the eurozone policy of the past twenty years. And the European leftwing will come back to gaining again a role only recognizing its mistakes and renouncing the nostalgia of a return to the past of the eurozone that has proved bankrupt, and from which it has only drawn a  sequence of ruinous defeats.

Antonio Lettieri
Insight - Free thinking for global social progress

Free thinking for global social progress