Europe: Don’t Look Now, But . . .

The news out of Europe is so unremittingly bad every day that I’ve simply averted my gaze every morning.  What is there new to say about another failed bailout (Spain this week), bank runs (Greece, every day), and failure of necessary reforms (Italy, or France lowering the retirement age of certain classes of public employees)?  From the looks of things ZeroHedge’s Tyler Durden hasn’t slept in months.  (You should sign up for the ZeroHedge Twitter feed, by the way, if you want a steady I/V drip of terrifying financial data.)

It is hard to see how the Eurozone crisis doesn’t end badly.  How severe the economic fallout will be for the United States (and China) is above my pay grade.  But increasingly I wonder about the political fallout.  Writing over at Foreign Policy magazine, Douglas Rediker and David Gordon note as one of their “12 Signs of the Europocalpyse,” the following:

3. Rise of extremist parties. They seem to be ascendant everywhere in Europe these days, on the right and on the left. In Greece, Syriza threatens the bailout while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn received nearly 7 percent of the vote in May’s elections. In Germany, the idiosyncratic Pirate Party has drawn a significant following. In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Front are actually battling over the same voters, while in Italy, even corruption scandals and the resignation of its longtime leader, Umberto Bossi, hasn’t stopped the virulently anti-immigrant Northern League from playing a role in Italian politics. And Geert Wilders’s PVV has already caused one Dutch government to fall and continues to play an outsized role in the Netherlands.

I don’t really have a problem with parties that want to make an issue of Europe’s flaccid immigration policies.  The real problem with political extremism or fragmentation is that it threatens to destabilize parliamentary systems, with unpredictable results.

Thus, the most interesting piece of news out of Europe this week isn’t the latest disturbing wiggle in the financial world.  Rather, it is the news that Spain (unemployment rate: 25 percent and heading higher) is trooping off to the United Nations next week to demand deliberations about . . . the sovereign status of Gibraltar:

“Spain will reiterate its position and talk about the how the situation has been developing in recent months,” confirmed a spokesman at Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Daily Telegraph. “We will ask the UK to engage in conversation over sovereignty.”

Exactly how has the situation “developed” in new or important ways “in recent months”?

Could this rock break up the European Union?

Okay, so the whole Rock of Gibraltar thing has stuck in the craw of Spanish pride for a long time, but is this really the time to be making a fuss over this?  Why yes, it is exactly the time to do it if you’re a fearful Spanish government, looking for any means to distract the attention of the population from the government’s failure to deal with the economic crisis.  It looks a bit like the decision of the Argentinian generals to attack the Falkland Islands in 1982 (look how well that ended up for them).

I have no doubt the UN will jump right on this.  Just like they have with Syria.  Another resolution ought to do the trick.  Meanwhile, Obama might want to do more than just appoint another committee as he did for the Syrian crisis, or send out Tim Geithner to browbeat the Germans, since the undertow from this threatens his re-election.

Time to buy more gold?  Or canned goods, like the Greeks are doing?   How is “Weimar” translated into modern Greek and Spanish?

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