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Finally, European debt crisis goes to the polls

Elections in France and Greece may help quell a rising sense of victimhood from this long euro crisis. Such popular sentiment is exactly what the European Union is meant to curb.

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Greek supporters of the conservative New Democracy party applaud during a May 2 rally in Thessalonikia head of Sunday's general election.

Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP Photo

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Europe’s history of wars were as much about people’s fears of becoming victims as about people's ambitions to dominate. So one goal of the European Union has been to make sure no one country feels like a victim.

That’s proved difficult during 36 months of a debt crisis that has now left the Continent with its highest level of unemployment in modern history – 10.9 percent. A few countries are now in recession with nearly half of their young adults jobless.

Up to now the EU elite and the financial markets have largely had their say on a patchwork of solutions imposed on the 17 countries in the eurozone. This weekend, however, two elections will offer the first window into the mood of voters – and whether they see themselves as victims of both the crisis and the tough measures to end it.

In France, a presidential runoff election Sunday will likely see a victory for Socialist candidate François Hollande. His tone is decidedly against the austerity policies imposed on euro states by Germany’s conservative Angela Merkel.

Mr. Hollande could upend proposed pacts designed to bring the EU’s 27 member states closer together and prevent a breakup of the eurozone. If so, that would cool the long German-French partnership that has been the engine of stability for Europe’s grand experiment to prevent war through unity.

The second election is in Greece, where the eurocrisis was triggered by excessive government debt (and lying about it). Greek anger at the austerity imposed by the EU could see the two traditional parties, Panhellenic Socialist Movement and New Democracy, at the mercy of fringe parties catching the winds of popular dissent.

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