Europe's Crisis Is About to Get a Whole Lot Worse

by DANIEL HANNAN May 5, 2012

Here's your starter for ten. The European People's Party is the largest bloc in the European Council, as measured by voting weight; can you guess the second largest?

Congratulations to anyone who plumped for the European Conservatives and Reformists, who edge ahead of both the Liberals and the Socialists.

Euro-Lefties have been having a thin time of it recently. Only three per cent of EU citizens live under socialist or socialist-led governments. That, though, is about to change. France, where the state already consumes 56 per cent of GDP, and whose budget was last in balance in 1974, seems likely to elect François Hollande on a platform of 'growth, not austerity'. (Who knew it was that easy?) Greece, which also votes on Sunday, is inclining toward a pack of communist parties; the politicians there who talk openly of the need for cuts currently command less than seven per cent in the polls. Romania, too, is about to install a Leftist ministry, following the defeat of the last government's austerity platform. As other elections follow around Europe, we can expect more of the same.

What will be the impact? Europe will accelerate all the policies that brought it to its present unhappy condition: wastrel spending, unsustainable borrowing, punitive taxation, deeper integration. Voters are in no mood to accept less generous perks and pensions. They'd rather be told that the money can somehow be got out of the rich. A politician who admits the truth - namely that the rich have nothing like enough to pay for all the things that modern governments want to do - is liable to have dead animals lobbed in his direction.

The notionally Centre-Right parties in office around Europe have done little to bring spending under control. All are presiding over budgets which would have been inconceivable a generation ago. Again, though, no one likes to admit as much, in Europe or in Britain. Simply to cite the official Treasury figures - which show that, contrary to almost universal belief, total public spending is higher today than it was under Gordon Brown - is to risk sounding delusional.

The EU is in a downward spiral. The worse things get, the more reluctant its governments are to tackle the underlying problem, viz excessive expenditure. Lacking any alternative narrative, voters blame the lack of growth on 'cuts', 'bankers' and 'deregulation'. They then support parties committed to even higher spending - which, of course, exacerbates the problem. And, as if national governments were not burdensome enough, Europeans must also contend with more rules and more taxes from Brussels.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We've shackled ourselves to a corpse.

Daniel Hannan is a British writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.


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