2014 is not 1914, but Europe is getting increasingly angry and nationalist: While Germany focuses on forging a government, populist anti-EU parties look set to do well at next year's elections

 

Belle Mellor 10112013
‘Behind these new, diverse political parties is a popular discontent with unemployment, austerity and the Brussels bureaucracy.' Illustration: Belle Mellor

Now the German elections are over, Germany and France will launch a great initiative to save the European project. Marking the centennial of 1914, this will contrast favourably with the weak and confused leadership under which Europe stumbled into the first world war. Before next May's elections to the European parliament, the Franco-German couple's decisive action and inspiring oratory will drive back the anti-EU parties that are gaining ground in so many European countries.

In your dreams, Mr and Ms Pro-European, in your dreams. Now for the reality. We will not even have a new German government until just before Christmas. In the German coalition negotiations, which are meant to be concluded next week, European affairs are being handled in – wait for it – a sub-group of the working group on finance. That sub-group is called "Bank regulation, Europe, Euro". For all the three participating parties, Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, the Bavarian Christian Social Union and the opposition Social Democrats, the hot-button issues are domestic. The introduction of a minimum wage, energy policy, dual citizenship, a proposed motorway toll – all count for more than the future of the continent.

Germany's politicians know what really matters for selling their parties to voters in future elections. As ordinary Germans get into the swing of their Christmas shopping, most are not feeling the pinch of the euro crisis. Youth unemployment is around 8% in Germany, compared with 56% in Spain. It is hard to convey just how far away, and how un-urgent, the crisis of Europe feels to the man on the Berlin U-bahn. Unlike his counterpart in Madrid, he does not emerge from the underground to find stinking garbage piling up on the streets.

Once the German government is formed, its European policy will be the product of compromises between three departments of state – the dominant federal chancellery, the finance ministry, and the foreign ministry – which will themselves be divided politically between Christian and Social Democrats.

Europe's reluctant leading power will have to make further compromises with France, which has different views on several key issues. France also has a weak president, François Hollande, who is failing to reform his own country, let alone helping anyone else's. The ageing and increasingly unequal German-French couple – which in January marked a rather downbeat golden wedding anniversary, with the German wife now definitely wearing the trousers – will have to take account of the concerns of valued partners such as Poland, as well as proposals coming from European institutions.

And from this dysfunctional orchestra is to emerge a clarion call that will knock the sceptics of all countries back on their heels and mobilise Europeans to vote for Europe? Ha, ha, ha.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/18/europe-angry-nationalist-eu-elections

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