Don't bury European nationalism just yet
The elections for the European Parliament have demonstrated that the elites may want closer cooperation and integration in the EU, but that ordinary people don't want to pay the price of sky high taxes and sluggish economic growth to achieve it.
There's a social element as well; unfettered immigration has roiled the relatively honogenus societies in Europe, leading to a predictable backlash against Muslims, Africans, and others who have arrived recently.
But the right wing parties in Europe downplayed that part of their message, hammering the socialists on taxes and growth. Whatever they did, it worked spectacurly as John Fund points out:
How big was the “Euroskeptic” uprising in the elections for the European Parliament on Sunday? Martin Schulz of Germany, who is the left-wing candidate to become the next president of the European Commission, admitted that the results across the 28 member countries showed voters’ “total loss of trust” in pro-Europe parties. Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister who heads a centrist bloc of deputies in the Parliament, told a reporter that he, too, is now a Euroskeptic who wants reform in Brussels.
But the reality is that most committed supporters of an ever more powerful European Union will be tempted to ignore Sunday’s results, hoping that public dissatisfaction with bailouts and bureaucrats will abate. But the public might not play along. The best economic estimates are that Europe is facing another “lost decade” of economic growth — stagnant economies will do nothing to reduce sky-high unemployment among young people, and the need for more Eurocrisis bailouts will keep taxes high.
What's more, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, suggested that Europe is facing a potential disaster with deflation on the horizon, and the ECB may cut rates or begin their own "quantitative easing" program, buying up government bonds to spur investment.
Sure - like it worked out so well for the Fed.
But the elections should have far reaching consequences. Should have - but probably won't Despite resistance from the ordinary euro voter, it seems clear that the elites will only double their efforts at integration.
All across Europe, voters have lost faith in traditional parties in direct proportion to the collapse of economic growth. In countries with free-market growth policies — such as the Baltic states — ruling parties actually gained votes in Sunday’s vote. But in Spain, France, Greece, and other countries, the traditional major parties of the Left and Right won less than half the vote. Even in Germany, the large nation most clearly committed to European integration, an openly Euroskeptic party pulled in 7 percent of the vote and will enter the European Parliament for the first time.
The reason for all this ferment is clearly economic dissatisfaction. In France, where growth is zero, two-thirds of voters recently told pollsters for the Financial Times that the economy is worse now than it was a year ago. In Italy, too, most voters said the economy is weaker than it was a year ago. Asked if they felt more secure in their jobs, 58 percent of Italians answered: “No, not at all.” In the five largest European countries, more than half of voters in the FT poll agreed with the statement that their country had “too many immigrants from the EU.”
Sadly, European Union leaders have in the past demonstrated a bullheaded refusal to listen to voters who are skeptical of European centralization. The bureaucrats at the helm ignore referendums that go against the wishes of Brussels, dismiss protests against economic bailouts, and give only lip service to addressing the public’s desire for greater accountability and transparency.
Since the end of World War II, the euro left has sought to kill the nationalistic impulse in European countries. They believed that the EU would finally put a nail in nationalism's coffin, and that with one currency, and one flag, the European people would turn their backs on their own histories and embrace the brotherhood of socialistic peace and tranquility.
It hasn't worked out that way. The people, it seems, don't see expanding the power of the EU by further integration as a societal good. With 10% unemployment across the board in EU countries - worse than that in many - and taxes that discourage job creation, investing, and saving, the people of Europe sent a message to the elites in Brussells; reform or there will be a full fledged revolt.
Nationalism isn't dead yet in Europe.