MILAN – The future of the European Union may not officially be on the ballot in the upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy, but the results will go a long way towards determining Europe’s fate.
Anti-EU sentiment is more widespread than ever, as demonstrated by the feverish campaigns of right-wing populist insurgents like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France. But there are also signs of support for revamping and reinventing the EU – a message being espoused by the likes of France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Martin Schulz.
Any pro-EU campaign, to be convincing, must address the problems stemming from the euro. Adopted by 19 of the EU’s 28 member countries (27, after Brexit), the common currency has become a major source of disillusionment with European integration. Though the euro crisis, in its most acute form, is over, the eurozone remains a fragile construct. In the event of renewed volatility, doubt about its survival could easily return.
At the root of the common currency’s fragility are flaws in the Maastricht Treaty framework, which dictates that eurozone members maintain a common monetary policy and individual fiscal policies that conform to shared fiscal rules. But the mere existence of fiscal rules has proved insufficient to guarantee compliance, and there is no enforcement mechanism at the EU level to ensure adequate fiscal discipline.