Eric Maurice* – Editorial Presseurop
On May 7, in the aftermath of the second round of the French presidential contest and the first of what subsequently proved to be two general elections in Greece, Presseurop wondered, “Which election was the most important?”
In a further irony of an electoral calendar marked by the impact of the ongoing crisis, the second Greek general election (organised because no party was able to form a government in May) took place on June 17, the same date as the second round of general elections in France.
However, this time around, there can be no question about the relative importance of the two votes: Greece is front-page news in the European press, while the (fresh) victory of the French left is viewed as standard political fare.
Not only was the outcome of the Greek election uncertain, but it was also crucial for Europe. Greece’s continued future in the eurozone was at stake, and along with it the survival of the single currency as well as any number of unpredictable developments that could have emerged in response to an imminent Grexit.
In opting for the New Democracy conservatives ahead of the Syriza radical left coalition, Greek voters have, as the headline in today’s Guardian explains, given Europe “a chance”.
Having said that, Europe will still have to seize this chance, which, as it stands, will be no easy task. In the wake of more than two years of “last chance summits” to save both Greece and the euro, the crisis remains ongoing.
Greece is still heavily indebted and handicapped by a failing state as well as a political class which appears to be unable to set aside old habits. Worse still, Spain and Italy appear to be drifting closer and closer to the same infernal maelstrom of debt that has dragged down Athens.
In Europe, the growing awareness that emergency initiatives have not worked has been accompanied by calls for more long-term solutions, and these will be the subject of discussions at the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June – a summit that will likely be marked by divergent views which will underline the importance of the French general election result.
On the one hand, French President François Hollande, who now has the benefit of an absolute majority in the French parliament, will be pushing for a growth policy to counter the impact of the austerity in Europe, which he would like to see implemented in advance of further steps towards political and economic integration.
On the other, Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arguing for the establishment of an economic and political union that can exert greater control over national budgets as a first priority, ahead of measures to stimulate growth and a possible decision to introduce debt sharing.
In the debate, which will be in marked contrast to those that took place under Merkozy, there is a possibility that Hollande, who has found himself an ally in the person of Mario Monti, could modify a balance of power in which the view put forward Merkel has continued to prevail.
We have reached a point where to recover from the crisis, the Union must look beyond the expediency of emergency measures to a political horizon which includes but is not confined to the economy. At the same time, it must be careful to avoid long-drawn out byzantine discussions that would neglect the urgency of the current situation and invalidate the success of any future project.
Europe’s 27 member states must come up with a solution that satisfies both of these temporal criteria, and it is in this context that we can say that any respite offered by the result of the Greek elections will certainly be short-lived.18 June 2012.
*French journalist Eric Maurice, is editor in chief of presseurop.eu.