The problems in France, with the British “renegotiation” and with the German “moral imperialism” all illustrate the fragmentation of the European ideal. They show, in their different ways, how the idealism of Schengen is unsuited to a world in which psychopaths move themselves and their weaponry around with too much freedom and breed murder and mayhem; how the straitjacket of the euro and the German-dictated policies of the European Central Bank lead to economic suffering; and how Europe’s democratic deficit, caused by officials making policy without recourse to the views of democratically elected representatives of the people, is alienating ordinary citizens from Bristol to Budapest.
But the bureaucracy and oligarchy that run the EU still show they have absolutely no intention of listening to the concerns of those whom they rule. David Cameron’s largely irrelevant demand to withhold benefit payments from migrants for a fixed time has been effectively dismissed by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, with the unanswerable claim that the other 27 nations are against it; and on Thursday, the Polish prime minister rebuffed Mr Cameron in person. Mrs Merkel, who shapes EU policy in her role as Europe’s paymistress, shows no concern – for the moment – that her approval rating has plummeted in recent months.
Tactical voting by socialists in France today may prevent both Marine Le Pen and her niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen from winning their respective regions; but the threat posed to the French political system by the FN will not go away. Mrs Merkel has only until September 2017 before seeking re-election, and her tune may yet change as her people become angrier with her. Other countries’ resentment of Germany, and its control of the EU, is unlikely to fade. The crisis in Greece has left the headlines, but will be back, and is ultimately insoluble.