Populist surge threatens euro zone consensus

Paul Taylor, Reuters, 23.04.2012

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A surge of support for Eurosceptic, anti-immigration populists in the euro zone threatens to upend the mainstream political consensus in favour of austerity and budget discipline.

The prospect of ratifying and implementing a German-driven treaty to enforce European Union budget rules more strictly is looking less certain, just as Europe may be about to lose the dominant "Merkozy" leadership tandem that negotiated it. […]

The socialist frontrunner accepts the need to reduce swollen national debts and deficits and would not reopen the text, but he argues that euro zone countries will only be able to balance public accounts if they can rekindle growth.

Janis Emmanouilidis, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said the populist backlash in France and the Netherlands would make it harder for governments to reach agreement on euro zone policies and any future rescues.

"So far, we've seen that each time there is a fear of an existential crisis in the euro zone, parliaments find a majority to take decisions at the last minute," he said, even if that meant the fall of a government as in Slovakia last year.

"But yes, it is becoming more difficult and it will become even more difficult," the German-Greek researcher said.

"The key question is what would happen if were not able to overcome a hurdle in a country called Germany. If we reached that point, we would be hitting a wall," he said.

So far, protest parties on the political fringes have gained little traction in Germany despite public hostility to bailouts, largely due to the historical taboos born of the 20th century experiences with Nazism and Communism. […]

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