Margaret Scott

Europe’s Vision Deficit

What makes Europe's desolate economic landscape even gloomier is European leaders’ striking inability to explain it to their citizens. Indeed, it seems that here lies the seminal reason for their plunging poll ratings: they seem to lead nowhere, because they have no vision on which to draw.

PARIS – In the Western part of Europe – the part that former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld maliciously labeled “Old Europe” – almost every government is in deep political trouble. The United Kingdom’s new coalition government may be the exception – for now. In the European Union’s big member states, the popularity ratings of leaders – Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Angela Merkel in Germany, and José Luís Rodriguez Zapatero in Spain – hover around 25% or worse.

Whether it is conservatives like Sarkozy, Christian Democrats like Merkel, right-wing populists like Berlusconi, or socialists like Zapatero, political affiliation appears to make no difference. If you hold office in Europe nowadays, you are in trouble.

What has gone so wrong? The economic crisis seems to be the most obvious explanation, but perhaps too obvious.

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