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Political, Constitutional and Labor Problems Greet EU Agreement

Is the story about to repeat itself? Another newly signed EU deal is failing to reestablish investor confidence.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 12/13/2011, 4:56 AM

The fresh EU agreement, designed to restore investor confidence, is already showing strains. Moody's Investors Service is not buying promises and is going to review credit ratings for the European countries and the forecast is a downgrade.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is already preparing French citizens for the likelihood that France will lose its coveted AAA rating and will therefore have to pay more to service its debts. It won't be insurmountable, comforts Sarkozy.

Moody's claims that the summit offered few new measures. European leaders want to show their seriousness by getting the agreement ratified as soon as possible. However, under the best of  circumstances, ratification of the pact may not be achieved until the end of summer 2012. The plan is already receiving push back from the European center-left.

French Socialist presidential candidate Franחois Hollande, still leading Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls, promises: "If I'm elected president, I'll renegotiate this deal...to add to it what it lacks today," The Socialists are refusing to go along with a constitutional amendment that would compel the government to issue a balanced budget.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Norbert Lammert, president of Germany's federal parliament, expressed his doubt about the constitutionality of the pact that would deprive the Bundestag of primary budgetary oversight.

Finland and Holland are expressing their opposition to the French position that bailouts can be decided upon by a majority rather than unanimously.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte would not want to put the agreement to a referendum as he well remembers the surprise Dutch "no" vote to a European Constitution in a 2005 referendum. Rutte's problem is that he needs the support of the opposition Labor Party since the usual support provided by Geert Wilder's Party for Freedom is unavailable. Wilder's party is Euroskeptic and is opposed to budget cuts. The Labor Party now claims that if the treaty amounts to a transfer of power to Brussels, new elections will be required.

Even if all the politicians could be prevailed upon to agree, the ultimate success of an austerity policy depends upon the willingness of the citizenry to take the bitter medicine without complete assurance that it will produce benefits.

While the new Italian austerity package sailed through the legislature, it was a totally different story in industrial relations, as workers angered by the new policy went on strike shutting down workplaces ranging from Fiat auto plants to the La Scala opera house in Milan.

If this pattern repeats itself in Europe, EU troubles are far from over.