In my travels around Europe in the past few years a few constants emerge. For anyone who traveled in the 70s and 80s, the most visible difference is the cars on the street. Back then, traffic was dominated by national marques, sparse ownership, old vehicles. Now, even in former Soviet bloc nations, the streets are filled with a Euro-homogeneity of compact cars all under ten years old; the same Fiats, VWs, Fords crowding the roads everywhere from Barcelona to Budapest. If the EU means anything to voters from Europe's less prosperous periphery, it means sharing the great car dream, being part of a prosperous Europe.
The second is a cultural invasion that offends and disturbs - the EuroMall. There's not a single city in Europe exempt from these cloned excrescences, these dread sterile behemoths of steel and glass, polished terrazzo and halogen lights. Only the prices vary with currency; the same man's H&M T-shirt is 1290HUF (£3.50) in Budapest, €4,95 in Barca and incredibly only £2.99 in London. With their identical iPods, Nautica, Helly Hansen, Converse, Adidas, Puma and H&M accoutrements the Yoof of Europe give the impression of an egalitarian cohort, but this too is a Chimera.
The cars and the clothes, the culture, the chain multiples and the flat-pack clone architecture give the impression that there has been a wealth transfer from rich to poor, an equalisation from core to periphery, but this is no more than a bubble, and a bubble about to burst. The worst hit, those that face a real return to the 1950s when the Eurozone folds, will be Greece, Spain, the Mezzogiorno, Portugal, rural Ireland, La France Profonde and the former Soviet bloc. The UK, northern Italy, metropolitan France and Flanders, Scandinavia will perhaps only have to retreat to the 1970s, Germany to the mullet, the 118 moustache and the 1990s.
They will go screaming and unwilling, shouting demands for German gold, but they will go.
|Spain 1958 - and 2013?|