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Scrapping the EU recipe

By Nikos Xydakis

Rapid developments across the European Union are lending Greece’s parliamentary elections a fresh dimension, mainly as regards to the political message that Greek voters will send to their European peers.

A shift in the agenda is evident: recommendations for fiscal discipline and austerity are gradually being replaced by calls for measures designed to boost growth and contain recession.

Presidential elections in France are a first sign that something is changing: Regardless of who wins the second round of the vote, Paris appears reluctant to adopt the demands for fiscal orthodoxy coming from Berlin -- even less so should socialist candidate Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the runoff vote.

A second sign is Spain’s ailing economy. Seriously damaged by sky-high unemployment and soaring borrowing rates, the Iberian nation on Friday saw its credit rating slashed. The downgrade by Standard & Poor’s threatens to expose another weak flank of the eurozone crisis.

The country is in a “crisis of enormous magnitude,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Friday, as he called on the EU to help his country boost economic growth. “If we are doing badly, they are doing badly. This is like the Titanic. If we drown here, even first-class passengers will drown,” he warned.

A third sign was the collapse this week of the minority government in the Netherlands, a country at the core of the euro area, over crucial budget cuts.

On top of all this, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz, a social democrat, recently criticized the Franco-German axis of snubbing the EU instruments during their agreement on the fiscal pact. Schulz did not rule out a break-up of the 27 member bloc.

Italy’s veteran socialist Romano Prodi has suggested the formation of an axis comprising France, Italy and Spain. Meanwhile, Italy’s caretaker government is pressuring Germany to put more emphasis on growth, not just cost-cutting measures.

Everything is in state of flux. Greece is moving away from the one-dimensional debate for or against the bailout agreement. The so-called memorandum may soon die as a model.

What is needed is proposals for a productive reform and realistic, sustainable growth, as well as proposals for political regeneration. The question, of course, is: will Greece manage to make it in the emerging European landscape in one piece?

ekathimerini.com , Sunday April 29, 2012 (21:12)  
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