Everybody who is somebody in things European is fully and totally immersed in what the May 23-26 European elections will mean for the future of the EU - and for anybody’s own country, of course.
Will Emmanuel Macron sustain Marine LePen’s onslaught in France? Will the CDU/CSU part of the ruling coalition in Germany lose important ground to ultra-conservative AfD (but also to FDP liberals)? And how will the other coalition partner, SPD, square it out with the surging Gruene? Will Italy’s Matteo Salvini team up with Hungarian Victor Orban, detaching the latter form the EPP fold? What will remain of the Austrian government now that the junior (and more extreme) Government partner has self-destroyed following a cosy relationship with Russian interests?
And, once all such pieces of the European jigsaw puzzle fall into place, an overall equilibrium has to be found in electing a President for the (supposedly executive of the EU) Commission, in sharing out important portfolios, in co-opting a head for the all-important ECB and in choosing a successor to the (increasingly active) President of the European Council.
So, when the latest of beleaguered Greece’s attempts surfaced – to use its post-Programme less-controlled status and effect some measure of austerity repair/social-pain mending – none of its European partners was willing to spend political capital in reprimanding the country and its Government.
Well, to be true, “none” is not totally exact. Klaus Regling of the ESM - not an elected official, but still an important one for Greece - was the first to sound the alarm for signs of relaxation in fiscal austerity. Some days later, in the Dutch Parliament there were rumblings over Greece. But in all-important Eurogroup the Greek issue was carefully ushered away - for after the European elections! Pierre Moscovici was on record saying that fiscal equilibrium should be maintained - but then integrated in his thinking social aspects of policy that should be also addressed. Eurogroup President Mario Senteno chimed in noting that Greece should keep its commitments - but said so having first acknowledged that the fiscal performance of the country has been strong enough. Last but by no means least, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said that at the end of the day, “all would prove prudent”. So European elections can be quite useful after all.
Such kicking the can down the road is extremely important, since the measures taken in Greece to relax somehow the 10-year long austerity experience may have been introduced by the Government – but they have been actually voted in Parliament by most of the Opposition parties. So, if push comes to shove in Greece’s relations with its European creditors, it is the country, its economy and its people that will feel the (new) pain. Not one political party or another.