7 June 2011
Having already struck in Ireland, the debt crisis has now devoured a second government. Like the Irish, who unloaded Brian Cowen in February, the Portuguese opted to banish José Sócrates and his Socialist Party to the opposition benches on 5 June.
In Portugal and in Ireland, voters have punished administrations in power for failing to come up with an alternative to austerity measures to reassure the markets (yes, them again) as to the solvency of their banks and public finances and to reimburse the billions lent by the EU and the IMF.
Strangely enough, in Portugal and in Ireland, the new tenants in the control room have decided to pursue the main objectives of the austerity packages that cost their predecessors their jobs. As they say, "We have no choice:" their ability to seek funds on the markets (which are needed to finance public policy) – as well as the survival of the euro much cherished by their European partners – are at stake.
Never before in the history of the sovereign states of Europe have individual countries had to contend with such reduced scope for manœuvre in such key sectors as public finance and taxation: we have now reached a point where it is difficult to distinguish between the policies of left-wing and right-wing governments.
Never before has European integration been such a concrete objective not only for the public but also for political leaders – although it is regrettable that the latter appear to be responding to events rather than taking the initiative. All in all, Europeans are not pleased with this situation. And they are making it known, both in polling stations and in the street.
Translated from the French by Mark McGovern