THE STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
reflected in the growing gap between balance of payments deficits and
in addition to the imbalances identified above, there is
growing inequality between individual countries. The progressive policies
that were the flagship of a social Europe have not had any real political
impact, while the process of liberalisation, and the increased “flexibility”
of the internal market and of the shared currency (at least in the form they
have taken to date) are weakening the provisions of the national welfare
state, restricting the impact of progressive measures in employment legis-
lation and exerting downward pressure on salaries.
in a crisis, the government must take responsibility.
The tension between the need to take decisions at a European level and
the need to establish legitimacy at the level of national governments has
intensified in recent years. The political landscape of the EU is being trans-
formed not only by the crisis itself, but also by the way in which the effects
of the crisis have coincided with an influx of refugees and have been am-
plified by the fear generated by terrorist attacks. As a result, populism is
growing across the continent. Coming in both left-wing and right-wing
guises, national-populism “defends” the poor against the elites and neo-
liberalism or, alternatively, defends the country’s national identity against
Islamists and foreigners, fostering xenophobia. Europe’s traditional parties
have gradually lost ground both to the left and to the right. They have
been unable to strike a balance between integration and versatility.
Moreover, they have failed to find a solution to the growing concern with
regard to Europe’s borders: a significant proportion of the population are
uneasy in the face of open frontiers and a wave of migration of people
whom they view as coming from a different religious and ideological back-
ground and holding completely different values. A section of the popula-
tion no longer feels itself to be culturally or politically represented, and we
therefore need to repair our institutions of representative democracy, both
at the national and at the European level.
The repatriation of competencies to individual states, combined with
ill-considered recommendations with regard to the current eurozone, are
unlikely to solve the problem. It is difficult to calculate what the conse-
quences of this non-integration could be. Over the long term, the founda-
tions of European life – democracy, freedom, peace, cultural variety and
prosperity – would be threatened, and this would in turn undermine the
possibility of maintaining a social model that differs from the one offered
by the USA or by Asian capitalism.
We need European solutions that take account of and protect democ-
racy in each individual member state and throughout the EU. A new social