Every week leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the international challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.
Rosa Balfourhead of the Europe in the World Programme, European Policy Centre
François Hollande’s electoral victory will lead to a novel and healthy debate over the best approaches to deal with the crisis. Most importantly, it will end the tyranny of austerity as the only recipe to save the European economy. The dearth of ideas and alternatives to austerity, an ideology disguised with a technocratic veil, has been the most singular feature of the debate over the crisis of the past few years. This has impoverished traditional politics and mobilized disenchanted citizens against old parties. Far from the scaremongering of some press and the markets, the fact that a moderate socialist wins the French presidency after fifteen years should be seen as a ‘normal’ event in democratic politics. Whether it will usher in a ‘leftwing’ solution to the crisis is another matter. Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy Brey are no left-wingers, but are sure potential allies to push for the growth Hollande strives for.
James W. Davisdirector of the Institute of Political Science, University of St. Gallen
The specter of a resurgent European left, now personified by François Hollande, is certainly a healthy corrective to the mantra of austerity promulgated for three years by Berlin. Whereas Madame Merkel and her economic advisors have been impervious to the barrage of data at odds with their ideology, their political instincts are quite attune to the apparent shift in public attitudes regarding the long-run virtues of medicinal misery. Hence, Merkel’s sudden support for a “growth agenda,” albeit one that does not cost anything. But does the left have anything new to offer? Although he campaigned on a platform of class warfare, Hollande’s statements abroad have been outright business friendly. In an interview with the Guardian, he is quoted as saying, “You could say Obama and I have the same advisors....[T]he left was in government for 15 years in which we liberalized the economy and opened up the markets to finance and privatizations. There is no big fear.” Really?
István Hegedűschairman of the Hungarian European Society, Budapest
In 2009, in the midst of the crisis, conservative parties gained most of the votes at the European Parliament elections. The positive results for incumbent center right forces, like the success of Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP in France, resulted in analysts arguing that citizens had more trust in the right than in the left during a critical period of the capitalist order.
This common wisdom might have been superficial, but the shift in the French presidential election in favor of the socialist candidate does not necessarily mean that “people” prefer leftist approach to the symptoms of economic policy failures today. The real challenge is not a traditional move of the pendulum in party competition to one direction or the other.
But the result of the Greek elections raises the threat of spreading economic populism and fiscal alcoholism under the rhetoric of national independence. Whatever unorthodox methods might be implemented as the consequence of the political turmoil, these answers would contradict the economic paradigm of our era: growth and austerity. Better to say that rational economic behavior can only go hand in hand.
Jonas Parello-Plesnersenior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations
The European left, and particularly François Hollande’s focus on growth is a welcome antidote to pure austerity medicine. Still, the European left has to stay on the reform path as well. There is no single option alone that can solve the crisis. Stimulus-driven growth can't solve everything just like how austerity couldn't—especially at a time when Europe is heavily indebted as well. The European left should partake in the responsibility for getting Europe's house in order, including supporting austerity programs. In return, the EU should establish growth options in research and education and renewable energy and infrastructure in order to future-proof Europe's states for a return to growth after the crisis.
Gianni Riottamember of the Council on Foreign Relations
Nope. François Hollande will balance the stout Teutonic austerity giving Mr. Draghi some room to maneuver. He may try to restart a project for Eurobonds. After all, his mentor Jacques Delors coined the idea, later adopted by conservative or Christian Democratic leaders like Giulio Tremonti or Jean-Claude Juncker. However there will not be a Mitterrand II in France or Europe. The money is not there anymore and too many older Europeans will have to be provided by fewer and fewer young workers. Traditional companies and traditional unions are fading fast. Jobs will be created only in areas—high tech, tourism, services—where the left lags in consensus. Europe will still be looking for a new left for a while. Keep an eye on the populists Syriza, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Beppe Grillo, Marine Le Pen, and Golden Dawn. Colorful or dangerous, they are all on the rise.
Stephen Szaboexecutive director at GMF, Transatlantic Academy
This should be the moment for a revived left, given the general feeling in Europe of a financial system out of control which favors the top one percent and is creating a growing chasm of inequality. François Hollande has in fact labeled the financial markets as his enemy and has promised to emphasize equality and opportunity for the young. This appeal should have a wider political constituency than that of the austerity-fixated right. Yet, the European left faces the growth of right wing xenophobic parties which now can claim up to a fifth of the electorate (including some of its own working class voters). It is constrained not only by the financial markets, but by the broader European construction which limits the autonomy of national policy makers without providing a democratically controlled alternative. Still it is the left which offers the best chance of taming finance and the broader markets, challenging the orthodoxy of free trade and dealing with the inequality gap without succumbing to xenophobic policies. The future of a left alternative will ultimately lie with Germany. If a grand coalition returns in Berlin next year, then the left agenda will have a chance to reshape the political landscape in Europe.