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A new Europe can only come from the bottom up


Red alert, yet again. The old French-German 'couple' - the engine or the brakes on Europe-making, depending on one's views - is about to autodestruct. Should we tell a few home truths to our German neighbours, who might become our masters, or start cleaning up our own backyard and accept the compromises that may escape the worst? Better, I believe, to understand what is happening by considering the European ensemble as a whole, all of whose components will either sink or save themselves simultaneously. Europe-making has stalled on budgetary constraint. It has become discredited in the eyes of the public. But that doesn't rule out a unique political system staggering on - one which is neither national nor federal, but an amalgam of the negative effects of both and one which henceforth will mandate everything. This has become all the clearer in the light of recent developments in Italy and France.


Italy repays this with a seemingly irreversible ungovernability, the tally of the Berlusconi years and of 'revolution from above' which, on the orders of Brussels and Frankfurt, brought into government a team of technocrats closely allied to global finance. In the absence of an alternative on the left, a defaulting Italian political class now tries to save itself by evolving from parliamentarianism towards a presidential system. But this attempt occurs by means of a fictional national unity that is totally devoid of a popular base: its success is anything but certain. France, supposedly shielded from instability thanks to the institutions of the Fifth Republic, is also sensing its decline. Elected on the promise of reversing the development of social insecurity, President Hollande remains powerless, unable - or unwilling - to clash with the financial capitalism that controls his every move. His attempts to find a counter-balance by federating 'Latin Europe' or rallying neighbours to fight terrorism in Africa having failed, he can only oscillate between unpopularity and market sanctions at the risk of combining both. Ungovernability on one side, immobility on the other - that is what we call a systemic crisis.


Mind you, this crisis has national origins. But, they in turn arise from European conditions, and have consequences for Europe as a whole – which, inevitably, will exacerbate the crisis if no overarching solution is found. It is not only the ‘periphery’ that is being affected today - it is two founding nations of the community; the most powerful after Germany. Since the establishment of federal institutions has failed, given that no state actually wanted them, policies are still decided according to power relations between member states. Paralysis is unavoidable, if not total break-up. And the peoples who turn their back on the Union will be its first victims.

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