After the French elections: An end to ‘Eurostarvation’

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential elections marks the end of both the ‘Merkozy’ duo and their disastrously recessionary austerity-only policies, argues Sergei Stanishev.

Sergei Stanishev is a former prime minister of Bulgaria and is the current President of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

?"Président Hollande, je vous félicite. The election of a socialist to the Elysée is a great day, not only for France, but for Europe. It is a great day for French citizens and an opportunity for European peoples.

Most of the damage caused by years of conservative economic policy was decided collectively at European level. So a lot of the work to repair that damage will have to be done at European level too. It will take hard work and it will need many hands.

The good news can also be seen across the continent. In German regions, and in the UK local elections, as well as in the EU candidate country Serbia, we have seen progressive parties make gains. Add to that the new socialist prime minister in Romania, Victor Ponta, and the rejection of the austerity government in the Netherlands, and progressives everywhere see real cause for hope.

The lesson of the last two years of the eurozone crisis is now clear – if you treat the people with disdain they will punish you.

The trend in Europe is progressive. It is a sign of electorates articulating their just demands. Those demands are fairness in social policy, sense in economic policy and security for themselves and their families. It is about much more than voting out incumbents.

These elections have illustrated that voters will no longer buy into the ‘fear agenda’ that the austerity policies have been built on. They have had enough of watching their social provisions shrink as growth shrinks along with them. It is a rejection of a conservative policy that has failed spectacularly. It consigns the ‘austerity only’ chapter of the EU to the past.

 François Hollande represents the future of the European Union. It is a future that will be modern, fair and dynamic but it is also one that will recognise, at a profound level, that if you try to build Europe without the consent of its people, then you are building on sand.

A great by-product of François’ success is the end to the Merkozy madness that has ruined the EU for far too long. The Merkozy entity will go down in history as a political duo who presided over a low point of European Union history.

In the late 1970s we had Eurosclerosis, a fatty mishmash of policies that blocked job creation. Now, thanks to the austerity only policies of Merkel, we have had ‘Eurostarvation’. The rationale for the last two years was that Dr Merkozy didn’t like the food that the patient took. Their solution? Starve the patient. Now Europe’s starvation diet is over.

 The challenge now is whether Chancellor Merkel can recognise the error of her ways and break free from this toxic association.

The first step that she must take is to recognise the value of growth based initiatives. The French Socialists won their election because they understand the value of an economic stimulus. The platform that was set out before the French people was also the economic platform that the European Union needs.

It is based on a fair taxation on financial speculation, it is based on a strong system of European bonds that recognises the economic benefit of pooled resources and it is based on a fair system of personal taxation.

 But the lesson that Ms Merkel can benefit most from learning is that stimulus is good for slowing down public debt. Fiscal stimulus can stimulate economic growth. What it would do would be to act as a trigger. An initial stimulus encourages private investment. This lesson should have been learned by EU leaders already, but as they have repeatedly shown, conservatives seem to be allergic to hard evidence.

 Next month will see EU leaders meet in the European Council. It is a chance for a new start. I know that François will bring a new energy to proceedings, based on growth, jobs, long-term investments and hope."