Why the French Want to Dump the Euro
Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon recently said that voting for the far-right National Front could be "acceptable." This is a code-word for Marine Le Pen's right-wing National Front that opposes immigration and euro common currency are the leading party in the polls, so French welfare-state politicians better get on board with the "dump the euro" movement or be wiped out in the next election. With at least one in four French voters ready to support the National Front, Ms. Le Pen is forming a Tea Party-type coalition with conservatives in the United Kingdom, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Nordic states. The National Front and its allies seem positioned to shock the world by winning control of the 766 seats European Parliament next year.
François Charles Armand Fillon was the chief architect of expanding the French welfare state over the last decade. As Minister of Labour in 2002, he pushed through the controversial French 35-hour work week law and lowered the age of full retirement in France to 55 years old. In 2005, as Minister of National Education he led the adoption of the first "common core curriculum", referred to as Fillon law on Education. He was politically rewarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy with appointment as Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012.
Five years of brutally increasing economic crisis and rising unemployment has caused anti-European rhetoric and calls for greater economic protectionism across France. During that same period, support for the National Front rose from less than 5% to 17.9% in the 2012 Presidential elections, and possibly to over 30% today. Before the last election, former President Sarkozy began reaching out to the National Front by calling for curbs on Muslim immigrants and protection of European industry from "unfair" Asian competition.
President Francois Hollande's hard-core socialist policies of attacking business and the rich have thrilled the Left. According to the Heritage Foundation, France's score for Index of Economic Freedom plunged to 64.1, the lowest of any major country in Europe. But those same policies have hurt the economy and infuriated the vast majority of French with a witch's brew of new tax increases, including:
1) Doubling one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world with a "surtax";
2) Increase reporting of income and tax obligations subject to VAT tax;
3) Increased pension tax contribution;
4) Energy drink tax of $1.37 per can;
5) Financial transaction tax on all investments;
6) Raising assessed value of all French real estate to collect higher property taxes; and
7) Data tax on all transfers of information outside the European Union.
The French Socialists under Hollande also increased deficit spending for "investments" to such an extent that the country's national debt is expected to reach a dangerous record level of 95.1% of GDP next year. But in failing to stimulate growth and employment with government investments, French Socialists violated the European Commission's 3% deficit rule. Consequently, France for the first time since WWII is being forced to make an "unprecedented" $20 billion in public spending cuts on defense, finance, and environment ministries for 2014. The Left is criticizing Hollande for bringing "suffering to the people" while on the Right he is being criticized as "anti-growth".
All of this has motivated the rise of the French National Front and their desire to join with other nationalist parties across the continent to run for the European Union Parliamentary elections in 2014 with a common slate of candidates. The election rules are unique for Europe, since all Parliamentary members are elected directly by the general population. Traditionally, Europeans have been apathetic and the turnout for the last election in 2009 was only 40%. This low turnout is expected to magnify the nationalist parties who are highly motivated to end what they believe was an undemocratic, failed experiment.
In 2009, the European Parliament gained enhanced powers in nearly all areas of EU policy, including oversight of the EU budget and the ability to appoint the president of the EU Commission. Consequently, the European Parliament has an equal status to European Council, which represents the national governments of EU members. This means most EU policies will need the parliament's approval to be implemented.
The nationalist parties are intent on hindering and if possible shutting down EU policy making. They reject most aspects of EU integration, such as the free movement of people within the bloc and use of the euro common currency. They believe the European Union seriously undermines member state sovereignty and demand restoration of states' rights.
The National Front and its allies across Europe appear to be on the verge of seizing control of the European Parliament and potentially naming its president. Such a stunning victory over the Left would be unprecedented since the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the 1990s. The European Union member states strengthened the power of the European Parliament to win the hearts and the minds of voters. It seems that after six years of economic crisis and not much hope for the future, the hearts and minds of most Europeans looks focused on dumping the euro.