Since 1952 saw the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the first step towards a ‘confederation of Europe’ that would become the European Union, the entirety of this fair continent has been in a kind of dreaming; a dream-against-a-dream, if you like, that Europe was beginning to come together to build prosperity and forever consign the phantoms of fascism and nationalism to the past.

If appraised as a sort of social experiment, this European Union under which some 507 million people live and work has certainly had its successes. Indeed, its very being as a pool of sovereign power, assembled without force, is an unlikely proposition, and its longevity speaks loud that the original post-war dream was not an impossible one. However, the course of open market economics ne’er did run smooth. The Great Recession of 2007 would put a strain on any relationship; the relationship of Europe with Europe has been no exception. While a banking union and the establishment of a bailout have shored up the Euro, politically Europe is now a duel between enforced austerity and parties campaigning against such austerity.These parties are likely to walk away from upcoming elections in Spain and Portugal, for example, with many of the spoils if public sentiment is anything to go by.

On the 25th of January general elections were held in Greece, where all this tumult partly began; one party, the leftist anti-austerity Syriza party walked out hand in coalition with Independent Greek, a party with similar ideas from the other side of the political spectrum. With these elections, one that have in terms of debt policy sent Greece on a collision course with Brussels, years of internal dissatisfaction and economic precariousness may be about to come to a head: without just one of its cards the house can fall, and we may all soon be waking up from the European dream.

The future of the EU is, among its members, an obsession. Resistance to the rulings of the European Court of Justice, as well as the fact that many of the Union’s principals are elected in an autocratic manner (in secret and without civilian participation), has led to the emergence of nationalist parties within its constituent states. These parties, from UKIP to Syriza to the Front National, broach brands of nationalism from the populist to the radical, though the very nature of the EU has encouraged us to think of all types of nationalism as fell. This sense of dissension among the people of Europe can be more personal still; for example, between Greece and Germany, a primary creditor in the union, with the former seeing the latter’s strict budgetary regulations as hampering its hopes for growth. Though people are mostly registering this dissatisfaction constructively through their voting, political movements carry at the speed of glaciers. The breakdown of the EU via populist political election, whether likely or not, would be a gradual process. There could be a nearer means of exit from the European dream, a shorter, sharper and sexier means of exit, and it may begin in Athens in a matter of weeks.

Perhaps the aspect of the EU that will prove to be its tragic flaw is its economic policy. The Union began aglow with idealism, idealism that has, perilously, been allowed to determine its policy alone. Pre-downturn, a complacency among investors saw all Eurozone countries able to borrow at uniformly low levels, ignorant to the risk of a government’s borrowing money in a currency it could not depreciate. The Euro is both bigger than any of the countries it serves, and totally inflexible; and there’s the rub.

The Euro as a currency demands commitment from both ideological and practical points of view; its power to unify is vital to sustaining the participating nations’ faith in the project. Owing to the fact that there is a hierarchy of credit among the nations of the EU, this faith translates directly into financial security. If, as has been forecast, Syriza make good on their pledges that alienate the EU and precipitate Greece’s exit, the Euro will essentially have been shown up as reversible. Suddenly, as the markets rock with suspicion as to who will be next to leave, the nations who are the Euro’s primary creditors might jolly well conclude that all the fuss isn’t worth tempering their own potency for, and that will be that. The Euro, and the Union in itself, would be over. Were that to happen, history tells us with a voice clipped and hoarse, the consequences are unlikely to be pretty, particularly for the little guy.

It’s none too hard to imagine that the end of the EU is nearing: it may, in the end, have nothing to do with mounting public frustrations with its processes, but with this simple Greek vote triggering a Hellenic chain reaction. In the 1930s the spread of demotic anti-politics, the likes of which Russell Brand is keen on, led to the rise of the precise fascism the anti-political are so much against. In precisely the same way the EU, having evolved as it has, may wind up the incubator for the very strains of distrust and economic uncertainty between European nations it was formed to banish forever.

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