“Mass demonstration to bring back the franc,” says a poster along the road in Paris.
Not everyone is happy with the European money. Many French people think it is just a devious means of raising prices. The cost of living has clearly gone up in France. How much of it, if any, is attributable to the introduction of the euro, we don’t know.
But dissatisfaction with Europe runs deeper than just the new currency. A poll taken across the continent showed that most people thought life had gotten worse, not better, since the European Union was established. And a large minority of respondents said they thought that the major thing the EU had provided was more bureaucracy.
This Sunday marks the EU’s 50th anniversary. The papers are bound to be full of retrospectives, introspectives, and other babble. The EU is one of a long list of things about which your editor has no opinion. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? How would we know?
But it has clearly made a change. It has got people on the move. London is full of Frenchmen. Provence is full of Englishmen. The Swedes and Danes fill the beaches of Spain… while Spanish fruits and vegetables appear on plates all over Europe as commonly as Californian avocados make it to New York.
In some ways it is easier to move around Europe than the United States. The airports are more relaxed and, often, more efficient. The distances are shorter. And in the last few years, a whole group of discount airlines has taken to the skies. They offer flights from Manchester to Marseilles for as little as 29 euros. And if you prefer to stay on terra firma, the trains are much better than in the United States.
All this movement has brought prosperity – especially to the periphery of Europe. Ireland and Spain are the big winners. The heartland countries – France and Germany – have a tougher time of it. They’ve had to deal with new competitors and a more fluid labor market.
Markets and Money