Nobody likes Mondays. But as Mondays go, 7 May 2012 is uniquely awful. In fact, it ranks as one of the least happy in Europe’s history. It is the day that political debts of the European credit crisis were called in, and, as the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder once eloquently put it, it’s clear that “there’s a ******* price to be paid for everything.”
It’s the culmination of two weeks of trauma. Across the board, voters and elected representatives have punished governments for the ongoing, damaging effects of the European credit crisis. In the space of fourteen short days, three governments have changed. In Holland, Prime Minister Mark Rutte was forced to resign after the far-right leader of the PVV, Geert Wilders, pulled out of the governing coalition in opposition to proposed austerity measures. In Greece, the two main coalition parties – Pasok and New Democracy – have suffered colossal losses, haemorrhaging support to the left-wing Syriza and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. And in France, President Nicholas Sarkozy was dramatically unseated by Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the second round of the presidential elections. To make matters worse, these changes have been accompanied by other shifts around the continent. On successive days, Hungary elected a new president, János Áder, to preside over mounting debt problems, and Britain’s governing coalition was mercilessly punished for its management of the country’s recovery in local elections.
But while each of these events would be remarkable enough in its own right, they collectively add up to something even more dramatic. In effecting such dramatic changes in vengeance for the scale of the continent’s economic woes, voters and parliamentarians may, quite inadvertently, have signed Europe’s death warrant. In fact, that’s putting it mildly. Perusing the newspapers this morning, my first reaction was actually “whoops, apocalypse.”
To explain this, let’s just try to survey the landscape of the new Europe we’ve woken up to.