Worst European crisis ever!!!
Europe is struggling through the longest and most difficult crisis ever in its history, and the long tunnel which began five years ago with the first European elections including its new Eastern European members has entered a new stage today with the casting of ballots in the midst of the world economic crisis. Preliminary data already show some clear, unmistakable signs, allowing for an initial analysis: Europeans are showing ever greater indifference with the lowest voter turnout ever (43.09%), more support has been given to Euro-sceptic and xenophobic parties, and the tendency is growing to vote as a form of protest against an economic crisis which continues to afflict the middle class and the poorest ones of all European countries.

In addition, at the moment there seems to be a growing distance between representatives of European institutions and the perception that citizens of the EU-27 have of the European Union. From a strictly political point of view, what stands out is the strong showing by the PPE, which has kept its place as the top European party (263 seats out of 273). However, the left has suffered setbacks with the British Labour Party and the French Socialists, for both of whom support plunged, as well as with the first real defeat seen for Spanish premier Jose' Luis Zapatero. Left-wing parties are struggling to keep the positions they held five years ago and, according to the initial figures, will be getting around 155-165 seats in the European Parliament, a significant decline.

However, the most noteworthy and worrying aspect from a political standpoint is that of growing disillusion on the part of European citizens towards European issues. In most EU countries, very little is ever said about the Union. In some cases European issues have disappeared entirely from election campaigns. However, if voters have abandoned Europe, then the same can be said of a large part of the candidates themselves.

The rise in xenophobic and anti-European parties is worrisome but not new. This tendency was already clear five years ago in the elections held a month after celebrations in Dublin marking the EU enlargement from 15 member states to 25, with the entrance of many Eastern European countries. However, in five years little has changed in the attitudes held by European institutions and national leaders towards their own citizens. Europe has a mysterious aura surrounding it and is seen as something far removed from daily life for those eligible to vote.

In addition to this difficult issue of distance, there is also the serious economic crisis which is hitting many Europeans with a dearth of future prospects and hopes, with lay-offs abounding and fear for the future, the desire to shut themselves in and to give up on the idea of a wider view or Community solidarity. These elements explain the success of the Dutch Freedom Party, xenophobic and anti-Islamic, which raked in 17% of votes (triple what it had in the 2006 general elections). Though one of the founding members of the EEC, it also buried European hopes for large-scale reform with the 'no' in the 2005 referendum for the draft of the EU Constitution. They explain - serving as an example for all - the growth of the nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-European party the True Finns, which got 10% of votes compared with 0.5% in the previous European elections of 2004.

In Europe's largest country, Germany, both Premier Angela Merkel's party and the Socialists saw support slide - perhaps the most significant example of a ''vote against the government'' seen across Europe with the exception of only two large countries: Silvio Berlusconi's Italy and Nicholas Sarkozy's France, both of which due to national contingencies.

A few days will be needed to digest these results. However, Europe cannot afford to continue down this slippery road, ever more fragmented and indecisive on what it wants from the future, unable to play a leading role on the international stage. The Lisbon Treaty - which contains small but sufficient reforms for the overall effectiveness of the EU - must be quickly ratified and, once again, the final word will be given to Ireland, where widespread dissatisfaction has dealt a harsh blow to Brian Cowen's government.

In the future, European leaders will have to find the courage to use strengthened cooperation in a systematic manner, as provided for by European treaties: small groups of pioneering countries which move forward in individual initiatives while waiting for the others to decide whether or not to follow suit. It is important to get back the spirit of the founding fathers and a renewed European spirit to get the EU back on its feet - with reforms, new institutions, and a common direction - as part of a global scene in a world that is changing rapidly. This is the only way to prevent today's crisis from becoming a collective shipwreck tomorrow.
Posted by: Classer 2009-06-08