Robert HARNEIS –TDO-Bad news from Holland for France’s NationalFront (FN)but not terribly good news for the pro Europeans either. The provisional result of the Dutch elections shows Le Pen ally, Geert Wilders only in second placewith 20 seats, after leading for months in the polls.This is less than the 24 he won in 2010 but more than the 15 he won in 2012.In a highly fragmented result the main government party Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD centrist party havekept 33 seats losing8. But their Labour junior partners fell from 38 to a disastrous 9. There are 150 seats in the Dutch lower house. The results will be fully confirmed in a week’s time.
Although the French FN leader was obviously hoping for a win for the anti EU vote in Holland she was not surprised. An essential difference between the two is that whilst both are hostile to increasing Islamic influence, Wilders had adopted an extreme position, something Le Pen has resisted
Supporters of the EU and the Euro should hesitate before getting too excited about the result. To achieve it,Ruttehas had to indulge in a late swerve to a more nationalist and Eurosceptic position. He felt obliged to pander to the anti-Islamic vote by nationalistic rhetoric and staging a massive row with President Erdogan by banning the presence of a Turkish minister at a rally for voters in the upcoming Turkish referendum.
Attracting less attention but as important in February the Dutch parliament unanimously voted to establish an enquiry to examine all the "political and institutional options" for the future of the Euro, listing the advantages and disadvantages, up to and not excluding withdrawal. Not exactly a triumph for the European project. The demand for a review was prompted by concerns that the bank’s ultra-low interest rates are hurting Dutch savers, especially pensioners.
Never the less, the much-battered European lobby will take heart. After Brexit and Trump, the populist dominoes have stopped falling, they say. Some indeed are already crowing about the turning of the tide when taking the Dutch result together with the failure of the extreme right to win the presidential election in Austria. That may be premature. Any sort of serious Euro crisis could give back the momentum to the anti-Europeans. The Greek crisis rumbles on with the Eurogroup determinedly postponing the inevitable debt write off yet again,with an obvious eye on the German elections in September.
However, the real danger point in Euroland is elsewhere. The Greek economy is very small potatoes compared with Italy, were an 80-year-oldBerlusconiis now calling for ‘a return to two monies’. That means a common currency with individual country currencies related to it and thus a return to flexible exchange rates within the European monetary system. This was the system that existed before the Euro. It is thought it could solve Italy’s competitivity problem compared with the northern European countries particularly Germany.
For the moment, the Italian politicians are waiting and watching France’s elections, hoping that a win for Marine Le Pen triggers a Euro crisis which they canthen profit from, without incurring the odium for initiating the break up the Euro themselves. Meanwhile the quiet flight of capital from the country continues. So, whilst the Dutch result is a stay of execution for the Euro and the EU, it is far from getting them off death row.