The Socialist 6 November 2004 |
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Ministers Paper Over Growing EU Crises
ON 29 October leaders from the 25 member states of the European Union (EU),
meeting in Rome, signed a new European Constitution.
John Reid, Socialist Party, and Per-Ake Westerlund, Rattvisepartiet
Socialisterna (CWI, Sweden)
However, the pomp and ceremony of the signing took place against the
farcical background of the withdrawal of the entire EU executive by the
incoming European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Borroso had faced rejection of the executive commissioners by a majority of
Members of the European Parliament because of the appointment of the
reactionary Rocco Buttiglione by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Buttiglione, who has now stood down, had aimed to become the EU's new
commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, despite declaring
homosexuality as a "sin" and attacking single mothers and asylum seekers'
ALTHOUGH THE leaders of Europe have signed the constitution it still has to
be agreed by all member countries. This could become a major problem for the
constitution's architects as it is likely to be rejected by a number of
countries, including Britain and possibly France, where referendums are
expected to take place. So far, eleven countries have indicated that they will
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has mooted a date for the referendum "in
early 2006" after the widely expected British general election in May or June
2005. Tony Blair is hoping that if Labour win the general election the
political momentum will secure a majority in the referendum.
But what happens if a number of states reject the constitution? The state
or states in question could hold a second vote - possibly after negotiating
opt outs - or could leave the EU. More likely, the constitution could be
altered or even abandoned.
In addition to the constitution issue there are growing tensions between
member states, reflecting different national capitalist interests. These
differences could explode at a future date, especially during an economic
Last year's economic growth in the euro-zone was less than 1% and for 2004
the expected growth will be below 2%.
Instead of improvements, workers and particularly pensioners all over the
EU have faced new, more severe attacks on their living standards. Austerity
plans from governments have been supplemented or overtaken by a new wave of
attacks from the big companies on wages, working conditions etc.
This has led to an upsurge in discontent and protests, particularly in
Germany and the Netherlands. In Germany, the Monday demonstrations against
attacks on the unemployed, and especially the actions of the car workers at
Opel (General Motors), have shaken politicians throughout Europe.
The rules of the monetary union have deepened the present economic crisis.
The Portuguese government, led by Barroso in the past, obeyed the rules of the
"Stability Pact" and slashed thousands of public sector jobs. This deepened
the recession and actually pushed up the public sector deficit instead of the
intended opposite result.
The European Commission has proposed a softening of the "Stability and
Growth Pact". Last year, both Germany and France ignored the rules, which say
that state budget deficits bigger than 3% of GDP should be punished. A
majority of the EU finance ministers voted with them to avoid the threat of
Since then, Greece has been exposed with hidden deficits for several years
of up to 5%. Germany, France and Portugal are breaking the rules again this
year. Italy and the Netherlands are also very close. This trend will continue.
THE MOOD against the EU is growing in the member states. In the recent Euro
barometer poll, only 43% said they have a positive image of the Union. Only
39% in Germany thought the country benefited from EU membership. Politicians
aiming to tap this mood will attempt to play a nationalist card.
The Tories and UKIP with their "little Englander" agendas reject the
constitution. They reflect more the interests of the smaller capitalists and
sections of finance capital as opposed to interests of the multinational
corporations who are championed by New Labour.
Socialists are opposed to the constitution because it will strengthen the
neo-liberal attacks on workers throughout Europe, which will mean more job
losses, more privatisation, more attacks on workers' and trade union rights.
In other words, the constitution is a bosses' charter.
In rejecting the bosses' European Union, socialists are in favour of
building genuine international solidarity between the workers of Europe. We
are in favour of a socialist Europe based on the democratic control, ownership
and planning of industry by the working class of Europe.