THE BLOG
04/09/2013 07:24 BST | Updated 03/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Reward for the Tough Choice Takers

Brussels is as I write, still more tourist than Eurocrat as the political institutions take their summer break though they will be back to work imminently. Reflecting on where we were eighteen months ago, I believe the Commission and Institutes have a great deal to be proud about. Back then there was talk of the European dream turning into an economic nightmare. There were even rumours of secret printing presses ready to churn out Drachma, Marks and Francs again. Crisis summits, bank runs, euro crisis were the daily routine in the European quarter.

Now the European economy looks rather different as some of the key players have reason to be cheerful at last.

And the message is clear. When the going got tough, the tough got going and now it is popularity payback time

With European growth at a two year high, hopes of a recovery are gathering pace. But the picture varies country by country.

The coalition's future success will depend on the economy and ministers will take comfort from the positive manufacturing, employment and housing figures as they prepare for the party conference season. In Germany, the popularity of Angela Merkel looks set to deliver electoral success in September as she appears to have won over voters who were initially sceptical at her support for the euro 18 months ago. German business has just recorded its fastest rate of output since the start of the year.

The political lesson would appear to be that the politicians who took the tough decisions and introduced unpopular cuts may now benefit from the upturn.

Those that sought short term popularity to win elections or offer an agenda of "spend out of recession" may now regret not toughing it out. François Hollande, the German left and Ed Miliband perhaps judged wrongly that voters would never forgive the cutters.

Instead, the gloom has turned to optimism and those who predicted that Europe would end can reflect on a crisis avoided. When the Greeks were in meltdown, European institutions faced their biggest challenge to date. Markets and banks were jumpy. And it is testament to the political leaders in Europe that the most recent problems in other southern European countries have resulted in a shrug of the shoulders rather than a full-on crisis summit.

All of this positive news could spell gloom for European fringe parties. A year ago it looked like the UKIP, Green and the smaller right wing parties could be the major benefactors from a backlash against austerity - now I am not so sure. However, they have one major chance to push their case.

European elections next summer give them a vital platform - and with low turnouts being the normal electoral response to these five-yearly rather distant elections, there is still every chance they can capture more seats.

But that's not the real price. If David Cameron can secure victory at the UK election in 2015, and Merkel in September, then the brave austerity leaders will feel vindicated - and rightly so.