The EU is destroying Europe

Fabio De Masi wrote an article on the future of the EU that was first published in German by the newspaper neues deutschland

Aug 16th, 2016

There’s a crisis in the EU. First Brexit, now stress with Italy’s banks. Meanwhile, former EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso sets off to work at Goldman Sachs, while his country buckles under the penalties resulting from its budget deficit, despite Portugal’s obedient implementation of the Troika’s reforms. In France, Italy and Sweden, too, there is growing support for leaving the EU. So it’s not enough to point fingers across the Channel. The EU clearly is in deep trouble.

There is no doubt that the Brexit campaign was marked by racism, lies and migration fears. This is nothing new. It happens during every election. What is new is the left’s helplessness in the face of this. In Austria, almost every second vote in the presidential elections went to the FPÖ. Hence, it is of little use insulting your audience.

According to surveys, the British were primarily driven by social fears: wage dumping brought about by immigration, lack of housing and the state of the health care system. Yet those bemoaning British fears about migration cannot remain silent when it comes to the EU.

A Polish construction worker, sent to work on a British building site, for example, is often not paid according to the wages in Manchester or Liverpool, but in line with the “country-of-origin principle” at the lower Warsaw rate. This does indeed create downwards pressure on wages.

The EU provides no protection against the destructive social power of globalisation. We cannot criticise the EU’s trade agreements with Canada (CETA) and the USA (TTIP), yet remain silent on the single EU market. The principle is the same: lower standards prevail. The EU creates competition in taxes and wages, the Troika mafia forces privatisation and undermines democracy.

Of course international problems call for international rules. For example, we need minimum tax rates in the EU for corporations such as Amazon, Google etc. that pay less than one percent tax on their profits. But in order to do so, EU treaties would have to be amended. Countries such as Luxemburg would never agree. The only thing that would help would be penalty taxes on money flowing to tax havens. And yet taxes such as these are impossible in the EU as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) views them as a restriction on the free flow of capital. Distortions such as these are not just a result of “globalisation”, but of EU treaties, negative Integration and the ECJ assuming ever larger powers based on case law.

There are also areas where the EU has no business being: for example municipal water supply. Why must services be put to tender across the EU to be exploited by profit-hungry sharks when climate change rather calls for decentralised water and energy supply? Is it true freedom when a Spanish doctor is forced to look for work as a geriatric care worker in Germany? People are no Amazon parcels. Social relationships and labour markets are predominantly a regional affair. Hence, freedom of movement without any protection for local collective wages divides people. A (unitary) minimum EU wage would be no help here either. It would be too high for Romania and too low for Germany. That is why we have collective wage agreements.

Talk is now of a new start, with the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy just two of the voices calling for change. In contrast, the Left was still fighting recently over whether it is even possible to demand such a thing.

Schulz wants an EU government kept in check by the EU Parliament and a chamber of states. That sounds like “daring more democracy”. But would it really be better if in future the EU Parliament decided alone about CETA or TTIP? Is it democratic for a parliament in Brussels to decide on the budget in Athens?

The EU needs new treaties. But that requires unanimity. And left-wing parties must also be able to make their voice heard, even if their governments are restricted to Athens and Lisbon. People don’t have time to wait for our vision of Europe.

France’s Prime Minister threated recently with ignoring the Directive on the posting of workers if it keeps making downwards pressure on salaries. Italy’s Head of Government promised not to take into account Brussels’ remarks on his country’s budget. And Hungary’s rightwing government dismissed the head of the country’s central bank –despite protests by Brussels– because he did not support their policy.

If the Left is not prepared to contravene EU Law to uphold democracy too, the Right will conquer Europe. In this sense, those who aspire to more Europe must sometimes dare less EU.

This article was first published in German by the newspaper neues deutschland (here). You find the German version here. The translation has been made by the nice people of the LEXIT network who published the article here.