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Is the European Union fraying?

We have all read and heard about how the Euro is "sick" and the effect that is having across Europe.     But what about the European Union itself?      It too isn't all that well.  Indeed, it is suggested that it is fraying.

"It is not simply the euro zone that is threatened by the dramatic economic discrepancies that now exist among its members, as well as the large indebtedness gap that exists between the southern members of the zone and the German-led bloc of northern countries. Now it is the European Union itself that is in danger, mainly but not entirely because of the economic crisis inherited from Wall Street abuses. The EU has contributed to its own misfortunes.

A new Europe-wide report by correspondents of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro reveals mounting disillusionment with the EU itself among the voters of its member states. These are confirmed by the results of an American Pew organization study issued May 14.

Britain has made the most news about a possible withdrawal from the union since the country’s most recent local elections gave the United Kingdom Independence Party nearly as high a popular vote as the ruling Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The Ukip won an unprecedented 23 percent of the total vote. There was an immediate rise in demand among Conservative Party members for a referendum on quitting the EU—which the Ukip promises.

Conservative support for the prime minister on the EU issue is crumbling at the edges. David Cameron has quickly promised a referendum but wants to renegotiate the terms of British EU membership (a non-British observer would add “if he can”). Renegotiating with Britain has few fans among the leaders of the other EU states and the Brussels Commission. But having Britain quit the EU is a scary prospect, since, while London has been a nuisance ever since the late Margaret Thatcher’s demands that Britain “get back” the investment the British made in the Union, it nonetheless is one of the four major European powers and economies and is one of only two European states that are (relatively) heavyweight military and diplomatic powers (along with France). Without Britain, the EU would be seriously weakened.

The Italians express relatively high confidence in the future of the EU, but this obviously reflects how little confidence the Italians currently place in their own governing class. The new Italian prime minister himself, Enrico Letta, said in his inauguration address that “the outcome for Italy is closely aligned with that of Europe.” Silvio Berlusconi, however, said that confidence in the EU is undermined by “the bureaucrats” in Brussels and the policies of Germany’s Angela Merkel. The Northern League, formerly allied with Berlusconi, calls the Brussels officials “parasites,” and the leftist leader Beppe Grillo has paid them a similar compliment.

In 2007, 63 percent of the Spaniards polled were “generally favorable to Europe” and, according to the Figaro inquiry, only 23 percent generally opposed. Today those percentages are almost reversed. However, membership in the EU is linked to democracy for most of the Spanish, who are not that far away from Franco’s dictatorship. In Spain, the Germans are mainly blamed for the bad times that austerity policy has created, so no Spanish political party has come out against EU membership."

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