In the troubled European south, political parties are starting to work across borders to build momentum for major reforms, or, on the establishment side, to hold the line against what are seen as unacceptable radicals. As the Financial Times reports:
Polls have given Greece’s Syriza party a consistent lead over its rivals — boosting the hopes of the Podemos movement in Spain that it can follow in the footsteps of its Athenian ally. Founded only a year ago, Podemos has developed close links with the Greek party: the two groups are part of the same bloc in the European parliament, and both make the case for an end to austerity and a sweeping restructuring of their countries’ debt. Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza leader, was the star guest at Podemos’s first party congress last year.Their opponents, meanwhile, are also determined to make common cause: Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, was in Athens on Wednesday to show political support for Antonis Samaras, his Greek counterpart. Both countries, Mr Rajoy said, had “been through difficult painful reforms” but were now in the midst of an economic upswing. “What Spain and Greece need now is stability,” the Spanish leader added, in a thinly-veiled swipe at the far-left surge in both countries.
It’s easy to read this as simply a story about southern Europeans being fed up. But something bigger is going on: the potential emergence of a pan-European politics. If the euro survives the potential shocks ahead and if EU integration continues—no certain bets there, to be sure—then we have the potential beginnings of two pan-European parties, one broadly center-right in favor of current policies and the other in favor of a Latin-style relaxation of the currency.Europe has a year of significant elections ahead. Of the Mediterranean “PIGS”, the Greeks have an election on January 25, the Portuguese in late September or early October, and the Spanish at an undetermined date before December 20th, probably in late Autumn. Furthermore, the Italian President has just resigned, as expected, due to old age; as we recently pointed out, much as the Greek opposition did, the Italian opposition is planning to use the usually pro-forma parliamentary election of his successor to challenge the government. Meanwhile, there are upcoming elections in the north, for the Estonians (March 1) and Finns (April 19), as well as the Danes (who retain the Krone but are part of the ERM) and Poles (who use the zloty, but have significant policy pull in the EU as a whole). And the wild card, the UK, goes to the polls on May 7, in a vote that could set the country up for a referendum to leave the EU entirely.One way or another, 2015 should bring big decisions on the future of Europe.