Europe’s Opportunity in Hollande

BRUSSELS – Rarely has an election resonated so widely across the European Union as the French presidential ballot has done. Rarely has a leadership change in one EU member state created expectations of a real policy shift.

Remarkably, a new European demos and public sphere are emerging from the economic crisis. Europeans are recognizing how interdependent they are. One country’s failures can threaten the entire European economy, and can call into question the fruits of 60 years of integration. Peace, solidarity, and prosperity are not irreversible achievements; only 27 countries working together can guarantee them.

François Hollande’s victory is a fresh chance for Europe. It should spell the end of a policy oriented exclusively towards austerity, which has paralyzed our economies and divided the EU. The new French president’s commitment to a European growth policy has brought hope to citizens, and should not alarm anyone – certainly not the financial markets.

Hollande’s plans for a growth initiative fall on fertile ground, especially in the European Parliament, which has repeatedly called for such measures. I am delighted that this message is increasingly echoed by the political mainstream, including most recently by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. Likewise, the European Commission is working on a “growth pact” to be discussed by EU leaders in June. Indeed, Europe needs a master plan to avoid a tailspin of recession, growing unemployment, and weakening banking systems.