I'd like to hear from the left on this one...why are many European economies in so much trouble? Serious question and requesting a serious reply.
Overall? The biggest problem is you have very diverse economies all controlled by one common currency. While the Euro makes trade and travel that much easier, it makes it very difficult for central banks to use currency to cool off an overheating economy or add fuel to the fire when an economy is flagging.
Most of the economies in trouble got themselves into trouble by mounting up too much debt. They all did so for a lot of reasons. (not one of those reason was free education btw).
Ireland and Spain got themselves into hot water by giving their banks full backing, and then letting their banks go hog wild into the local real estate market bubble. Before these bubbles burst (a little after ours did btw), both countries' governments were actually spending well within their means. Spain's debt ratio was actually significantly better than the US and Germany. Meanwhile the private sector went hogwild running up debts betting in the real estate market. When that went bust so did they, but the Spanish and Irish governments had given them backing, and then both went into debt bailing them out.
Italy had a similar issue with private companies running up huge tabs due to historically low interest rates.
Greece is corrupt as hell and has been running a shell game for years. They spent like sailors on public works like the 2004 Olympics (and a lot of that spending was pocketed by corrupt officials), raised public sector wages to keep everyone happy, and hid debt so the EU wouldn't crack down on them. They were able to keep up appearances while the economy was hot, but the second it tanked they were in trouble. Their biggest sources of income were construction and tourism, two of the first sectors to take a hit in a downturn.