The bad news from Europe is coming on so many levels that it is hard to avoid the feeling that something fundamental has changed in what remains the largest economic bloc — and largest collection of democracies — in the world.From France come the election results, bad news in three different ways. First, there is the upsurge in support for unclubbable parties: between the far right and the far right, almost a third of French voters chose to support radical parties. While many voters use the first round in France’s two-round electoral process to register protest votes, it’s clear that the French political landscape is fragmenting, and in the final electoral round the two candidates still standing will have to appeal to the extremes — reducing their flexibility in office.Second, it is looking less and less likely that the next French president — whether Hollande or Sarkozy — will be able to continue to work closely with German Chancellor Merkel. French politics and German politics are pulling in increasingly different directions, and the likely outcome is a much greater difficulty in developing a common Franco-German position on the growing number of urgent policy issues filling Europe’s in-box. Even if you think that Merkel and the Germans have put Europe on a one-way trip to failure, a Franco-German impasse is not good news. Europe needs to act, and when France and Germany disagree, it usually can’t. They seem headed for more, and deeper, disagreement these days.Finally, the dynamics of the election moved both candidates away from “Europe.” Hollande wants to tear up the fiscal pact, and Sarkozy is ready, de facto, to scrap the agreement that dismantled border controls among a core group of EU countries. “Europe”, meaning chiefly a power-grasping group of Brussels-based technocrats and the ever-deepening pile of regulations and rules that keep them in power, does need its wings clipped. A less ambitious Europe would probably be a happier and more successful entity. But it is far more likely in the present atmosphere that it will be the good things that Europe does which are in danger — open borders and the single market are much more vulnerable than excessive regulations, crazy farm policies and bureaucratic pettifoggery.The French election is the biggest story in Europe today, but it is far from the only sign that Europe has fallen down and it can’t get up. The Dutch and Czech governments are falling as the strains of the European crisis bite deeper into national politics. The outlook in Spain and Portugal shows no sign of improving; Portugal may soon need a second bailout and the upward drift of the yields on bonds from recessionary Spain has traders biting their nails all over the world. Both GDP and real estate prices are widely expected to continue falling in Spain through 2012, putting more pressure on government finances and the banking sector. Economic output across the Eurozone declined in April as debt levels rose.Trees do not grow to the sky, and holes do not often go all the way to China — even when Brussels is digging them. All over Europe there are companies who want to make a profit, young people who want to launch careers, entrepreneurs who want to try something new. The infrastructure is good, the borders are (still) open and the barriers to intra-European trade remain low. Germany has overcome the costs of integrating the former East Germany and reformed its labor markets and welfare system. The core of the European political class is still viscerally committed to integration, and both France and Germany remain committed to deep cooperation.But it is hard to avoid the impression that, despite the considerable assets the continent still has, this European generation is living off — and spending down — the capital that its forerunners accumulated. And at some point one begins to wonder just how much is left in in the family trust.