Monday, 20 May 2013

Loss of hope in Europe (or not quite?)

From FT Alphaville, using Pew's surveys, concluding on how there is a steady decline in support for the European project, particularly among the youth: 

"Support for European economic integration – the 1957 raison d’etre for creating the European Economic Community, the European Union’s predecessor – is down over last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2013. Positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most EU nations, even among the young, the hope for the EU’s future. The favorability of the EU has fallen from a median of 60% in 2012 to 45% in 2013. And only in Germany does at least half the public back giving more power to Brussels to deal with the current economic crisis."
The economic conditions are particularly bad across the continent; South Europe is in deep moral and economic distress, the French are loosing hope in their newly elected President and for the first time feel strongly against the EU and economic integration, while it's only down to the Germans which tend to keep up a positive note. One would say; not surprisingly since Germany is the only country that has significantly benefited from the EU...and one would be wrong to say that. Altogether, the people emphasize the labour market, inequality, economic integration, and incompetence of own leaders as the crucial problems. Best to see this omnipresent sentiment by the numbers: 


And with all this gloom, it is interesting to see the majority of the same survey respondents still strongly support the euro, and (even more surprisingly) austerity: 


How does one explain that? Does this mean that the majority of the people do in fact realize that funding current unsustainable concessions cannot last and that this must be resolved? That there is popular support to handle even the toughest issues? The voters are mostly blaming the lack of political will for the lack of proper reforms. Then who are the politicians afraid of? Why do they decide to risk their popular support by not reforming the system even though a majority of voters realizes there is no other way out? Well, for once, they are massively afraid of certain interest groups whose concessions might prove to be too costly to change. Usually, the biggest pressure is coming from those groups upon which the governing party (and/or collation) is depended on. So it makes political sense not to touch them. But political logic is sometimes diametrically opposite to economic logic. And we reach a standstill; the voters elect the politicians they think would possess enough courage to initiate the reforms, the politicians fail to comply due to being too depended on certain pressure groups (both locally and nationally), and everything stays the same. Perfect ceteris paribus. But the problem is that this status quo is causing a serious depletion of democratic capital in Europe. It is so large that the very essence of the European project - trade and integration - is not only being brought into question, but vehemently opposed all of a sudden. 

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