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Euro-Elections, as in Eurovision

Euro-Elections, as in Eurovision

We are moving towards Euro-Elections, in Presiding Greece as elsewhere, without speaking much about Europe. Especially in Brussels, it is as if we expect fresh faces to join before we talk seriously. In the coming weeks we shall exchange visits and, perhaps, a few Confederal commitments; campaigns will be national. What is so “Euro” about “Euro-elections” one might ask?

In France, the far right is emerging as a sober power, drawing from the pool of disillusioned voters, for whom the PS was found wanting as compared to expectations. Mrs Le Pen draws mainly from the industrial South and North urban and industrial centers and ports, that is, the working class. In Greece, which never had a mass industrial workforce, the far right draws from the middle and lower middle class, which sees social upward mobility rewind, certain that the present of the sandwich generation (30-40) and the future of its children (18-30), will be worse. And they are angry. This is Golden Dawn’s pool. By the foundation of all this discussion is the cleavage between the rich and the poor. Now, that is a theme, meriting a Europe-wide debate in the middle of a campaign.

Class, class, class. For a generation, we had created in Greece, perhaps on quicksand foundations of regulated niche markets and rent-seeking, a middle class. This is now liquidated, not merely in Greece, but across Europe. And this disintegration is happening in the name of “reforms,” but which effectively deforms the state through aggressive deregulation, turning the European Social Model into a misnomer. Reform equals deregulation, whilst social and class cleavages are fair game. And that is a European discussion to be had.

In Portugal, education was not, as it seems, the first priority. Today, 65% of the 25-64 age group do not have a high school degrees. Still, the cream of the crop of the Portuguese youth leaves for the former colonies, whilst expenditure on education is trimmed.

In Greece, where private expenditure always compensated for wanting public education, the numbers were much better. But as incomes are sinking, we simply do not know: a) whether we can socially reproduce this advantage in the future and b) how to exploit it in the 60+% youth unemployment present. We talk of a “lost generation” as if the desertification of human resources in the South of Europe were a natural phenomenon. Would this merit a European discussion during the campaign?

In Greece and in Portugal the trade deficit looks better. But, this has nothing to do with absolute numbers and everything to do with the devastation of purchasing power. Given the Ukrainian events and the rather chilly climate with Russia, the question is for how long, sustainably, Europe can export its crisis.

If, as few years ago, the instrumentality of empowering the Southern market is deemed sufficient, the question is whether this will happen in predatory terms, like dumping practices in the dairy market, which has happened in Romania and will happen in Greece, or whether a mechanism for the redistribution of surpluses will be animated. Unless, that is, we expect growth to return once every internationally competitive company in Europe’s periphery has moved its headquarters to a tax-friendly Member State with the bonus of cheaper access to finance, as is the case currently. Is this a European issue?

One could frame Greek, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish dead-ends as European challenges. That should be normal in Euro-elections; we will, after all, talk about the state when national legislative elections come about. And in this context, a serious and legitimate discussion on transparency might have taken place, across the board, involving givers and takers, tax evaders and tax heavens, surplus and deficit states, as if the EU were something more than the sum of its parts. Is it now?

The subject, in Brussels, is who not how; not infrequently it is all about politicians: old and new, popular and unpopular, abstractly conservative or transcendentally left and, of course, the ugly extremists. In sum, European discourse seems devoid of politics and policies. Increasingly so, Euro-Elections come to resemble the quality of Eurovision.

Article in «NEWEUROPE ONLINE», 06/04/2014

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