OPINION

Clouds on the European horizon

Greece has not been alone in terms of the economic crisis in the past three years, and things do not bode well for the future of Europe as a whole. What can we expect in the months to come on a European level?

First of all, France is about to be hit by a major storm come autumn as society and the political system struggle with their aversion to reform. President Francois Hollande lacks the political stature and force to push his country forward, while top analysts and European politicians are expecting the markets to come down hard on the country, where the size of its economy means that the future of the euro may be put at stake.

The second prediction coming from people in the know – all the way from the Netherlands to Spain – is that the European establishment is on the brink of a major political crisis. Established political parties are rapidly losing ground or beginning to fall apart, as the far-right gains an increasing amount of influence. The belief is that the next European Parliament will be something of a circus and that many members will be there simply on the merit of being opposed to the idea of a unified Europe, as skepticism toward the European Union and toward globalization gains ground among Europeans. Europeans appear to want developments to slow down so they can catch their breath. But history will always gallop ahead and it is very unforgiving to those who don’t keep up, bringing us to the next major issue, which is the need for structural changes and measures boosting competitiveness. These are at odds with the democratic principals at the foundation of the EU, while low salaries and job insecurity inevitably lead people to extremes. Average people, and not just in Greece, feel that things are out of control and wonder where all the changes will lead.

Some analysts predict that by 2050, no European country will rank among the world’s 10 richest nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps reminding her peers that with 7 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of its GDP and 50 percent of its social spending, Europe cannot survive. Behind these numbers, of course, are real people with real problems. Europe can either change so that it keeps up with the rest of the world, or it will start lagging dangerously behind. In either case, democracy as we know it will face serious challenges and average Europeans will feel poorer than they do today.

Greece happened to be the first episode of a global dramatic series of the kind that the world tends to experience every 50 or 60 years. Where it will go is something that remains to be seen.