One of the most under-appreciated stories of 2013 has been the marked change in favoribility opinions of European Union citizens towards their own EU. Spain and France, once bastions of EU support, now find their supporters in the minority. In 2012, 60% of Spaniards and 60% of French citizens viewed the EU favorably. Respectively, only 46% and 41% viewed the EU favorably in 2013.
Analysts have been expecting this turnaround for years, but it never seemed to come. The Financial Crisis of 2007-08 led to the debt crises around Europe, especially grave crises in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. While repayment of debt is typically eased by allowing their local currency to inflate and adjust, most EU countries are tied to a single Euro currency. So when the countries needed the Euro to inflate, the European Central Bank had no intention of changing the status quo.
Instead, the approved solution (championed by Mario Draghi and Andrea Merkel) was Austerity, German-style. Public expenditures were slashed, jobs were cut, and welfare programs were neutered. We saw the protests, violent strikes, and even riots staged by the newly unemployed, yet EU support among the general population remained high.
It seems, however, that the European Union has finally crossed the Rubicon and the public's faith in the Union is fast becoming a minority opinion. Euroskepticism, once limited to the British Isles and fringe candidates, is in vogue. Will Merkel and EU leaders be able to drive the skeptics back or have we seen the twilight of the EU's salad days?
2013: In Europe, some sunshine, but growing Euroskepticism (Christian Science Monitor)