Viewpoints: Election impact on eurozone

 
Hollande supporters in Paris, 6 May 12 Many young French voters backed Mr Hollande hoping for action on jobs

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The elections in France and Greece have reverberated across Europe, with voters challenging the eurozone's austerity drive.

France now has a Socialist President, Francois Hollande, while in Greece the left-wing Syriza group came second.

The European Parliament, given more muscle by the Lisbon Treaty, is a big player in the debate. So BBC News asked a range of MEPs for their opinions on the election results and the eurozone crisis.

Markus Ferber (Germany), centre-right European People's Party

Markus Ferber MEP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and [outgoing] French President Nicolas Sarkozy did a great job during the crisis. Co-operation with the new President Hollande will not be easy. Especially Mr Hollande's plan to renegotiate the fiscal pact and eurobonds will trigger fierce debates in Europe. It is not possible to renegotiate the fiscal pact.

We have no time to open valid contracts again and again after each election in member states. Mr Hollande wants to boost the French economy with a debt-financed economic stimulus programme. But with more and more debts confidence in the euro will be further weakened and not strengthened.

The Greek election result is a setback for efforts to save the euro. Only one thing is already clear - the parties have to compromise with the EU because Greece needs further EU assistance and must adhere to its commitments.

The result shows the very difficult situation in Greece and marks the end of an era. There will be no more single party rule. The political landscape has become extremely polarised. Voters have punished the EU-initiated efforts with these elections. The Greeks are fighting against further savings, yet still want to remain in the euro. But the second is impossible without the first.

Kinga Goencz (Hungary), centre-left Socialists and Democrats

Kinga Goencz MEP

Francois Hollande is the first Socialist to be elected French president since 1995. His election brings hope and good news for Europe and for the eurozone, since his main agenda is job-creation and economic growth, to counter-balance the dominant Europe-wide financial austerity.

Budget cuts and financial discipline alone cannot ease the impact of the European economic crisis. They lead to the opposite - a deepening of the social crisis and political instability.

We see millions out of work, poverty and despair everywhere. We see populism, nationalism and extremism rising throughout Europe. The latest example of this trend is Greece, where people are fed up with one-sided austerity measures and voted for radical and populist parties. The programme offered by the winning parties is not a solution, but even more of a problem for Greece and Europe.

Francois Hollande knows that we have to put our house in order, but at the same time we cannot tolerate a situation where 25 million Europeans are out of work, young people feel left behind and see no perspective for themselves. The most vulnerable groups in society suffer the most from the consequences of the crisis.

The French and Greek elections teach us Europeans that we need growth and jobs, which should be based on more Europe, deeper integration, democracy and solidarity.

Bas Eickhout (the Netherlands), Greens/EFA

Bas Eickhout MEP

The arrival of Francois Hollande is a welcome change in the European Council [EU leadership], which so far has been unable to prevent the economic crisis in the eurozone from developing into a political crisis. The Merkozy [Merkel-Sarkozy] tandem stubbornly held on to one-sided austerity policies and failed to put the eurozone on a path to sustainable recovery.

As a result, many voters have lost confidence in the euro and chose anti-European parties. The Greek election results are the most dramatic proof of this. Hollande's call for a growth pact could be a turning point.

For it to succeed Hollande must convince Merkel of a fast, partial mutualisation of eurozone debt - eurobonds - and a massive investment programme through the European Investment Bank. This programme should focus on green investments, because Europe's debt problems are closely linked to our addiction to expensive imports of oil, gas and raw materials.

As for Greece, only a renegotiated memorandum of understanding could restore the Greek population's faith in a socially acceptable recovery within the eurozone. I do not see how this can be done without extra investments and a partial write-down of the loans by eurozone governments, in exchange for prolonged reforms.

Sylvie Goulard (France), centrist Liberal Democrat ALDE

Sylvie Goulard MEP

I'm very happy that the French election might at least open a window of opportunity to discuss not only the substance of our policies but also the way we have communicated those policies to Europe's citizens. They are suffering under austerity.

I don't think that highlighting the issue of growth while also favouring fiscal discipline is contradictory. The truth is that debt levels in the EU are so huge that no-one can afford to increase them further.

On public spending, I hope there will be strong control from Brussels. However on tax reform there is some room for manoeuvre. It's easy for the French government to promise one thing and the German government something else, but everyone is taking decisions without considering their partner countries.

More should have been done at European level, for example implementing the Monti reforms on the single market. My words to the European Commission are: Hurry up!

The Greek election results are a sign that the EU has to look at its policies, as they are not working. Our top priority should be to give jobs to the people of Europe.

But the EU also needs to put democracy back on track. The European Council has been taking decisions behind closed doors, and that is not what the people of Europe want.

The Greek crisis and elections in France are a sign of the EU's limitations. The big reforms are not discussed in public, like in the European Parliament, and that is part of the problem. I would even suggest creating a federal eurozone parliament within the European Parliament structure.

We need to change our crisis management in the EU. If we continue trying to impose strict reforms on countries without involving their citizens we will end up with more Greek-style situations.

William Dartmouth (UK), UK Independence Party UKIP

William Dartmouth MEP

The eurozone is a political construct. It had and has little or no basis in economics. With 17 disparate economies shackled to the same exchange rate and interest rate the eurozone is unworkable.

Mr Sarkozy in France was the eighth eurozone leader to be voted out of office in little over a year by popular anger at the austerity measures implemented to keep the eurozone together. Mr Hollande has called for a shift from austerity to growth. In that he is right - but how is he to do it?

In reality, Mr Hollande is constrained both by his own 1970s-style socialism and France's partnership with Germany. In consequence, Mr Hollande will fail France and the eurozone. Unemployment in France among the 18-25s is almost 20%. That cannot get better while Mr Hollande opposes a flexible labour market. Indeed, he is committed to repealing Mr Sarkozy's limited structural reforms.

Mr Hollande's victory will mean more discomfort for France, delay in reforming the moribund sectors of the French economy, incidentally more French in London and more denial of reality. This can only accelerate the eurozone's inevitable demise.

The Greek election was a decisive rejection of the bailout terms. But it was a political stalemate. There will probably be another election in June.

The Greek austerity programme has led to human misery. What it has not done is create growth or any hint of a route to prosperity in Greece, or for that matter anywhere else in the eurozone. While Greece has austerity imposed on it, there is no hope for the Greek people.

Dimitrios Droutsas (Greece), centre-left Socialists and Democrats

Dimitrios Droutsas MEP

The result in Greece was certainly a shock for the whole political system. However I think it was good in some ways. Politics in Greece needs change, in order to make the necessary reforms that the country needs.

The majority of citizens in Greece are suffering a lot from the austerity measures. This meant that the election was an opportunity for the voters to express their frustration. However I wouldn't want to reopen any arguments and discussions about Greece's future in the eurozone. We've seen in the past what the results are, both economically and politically, of having such talk.

We in Greece have to bring our house in order. We the Greek political elite are responsible for the situation. The last 30 or 40 years have seen the wrong policies and the wrong political mentality. Too many things were done too fast. However the EU has a role to play, and supporting fiscal consolidation doesn't contradict supporting a policy of growth.

Some urgent management is needed in Greece. However we can see the results if we impose too many harsh austerity measures on the people. I appeal to the EU to agree to give Greece more time and real support. The EU can no longer take decisions behind closed doors and leave the citizens out of the game.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    As almost all the Eurozone countries are in the same debt and austerity boat, with an artificially low Euro doing nothing except boost the German economy, perhaps it would be easier all round for a qualified majority vote of the indebted countries to require Germany to return to the mark, and take a lot of the pressure off the rest.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    Back in the 80's when I was a kid we imagined a future where we would have machines doing all the work, flying cars and the exploration of space.

    I wonder what today's kids think about the future.

    I feel something has gone horribly wrong in the past 30 years and it will take a lot of struggle to steer humanity back to a safe sustainable track.

    I hope these elections signify the beginning.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 23.

    Everybody is focused on the euro atm.
    America is worse off, they owe trillions.
    Their bubble will burst soon, J P Morgan is showing the cracks already.
    Sort the bankers out, and if we need to borrow money to provide growth,
    Then bite the bullet and do it.
    Money has no real value, only a perceived value, if people think its worthless it is.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    The result in France has injected a sense of realism. How does the Eurozone get out of this debacle? Hollande is advocating a different prescription to resuscitate Europe. His plan will be opposed tooth and nail. Now is the time for other European leaders to wake up from their stupor and think straight. Hollande is a breath of fresh air advocating job creation and pragmatic economic growth.

 
 

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