Which EU are the heads of government going to pledge themselves to on March 25th?

19 March 2017

Which EU are the heads of government going to pledge themselves to on March 25th?

On 25th March the heads of the governments of the European Union’s member states will assemble in Rome to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the EU’s founding treaty, the treaty to which that city gave its name. The European Commission, together with the Maltese EU presidency, would like to take this opportunity to issue a solemn declaration in order to give the EU a fresh lift. One thing is indeed clear, and that is that the EU will be playing an even greater role in internal security and in defence policy. At the same time the meat will still consist of market-oriented economic policies, with at best a thin social gravy poured over it. So this Declaration will certainly not be any cause for celebration for ordinary people in Europe.

During the just ended general election campaign ‘Europe’ often came up. In response, SP leader Emile Roemer invariably repeated the principal points of our critique: the euro isn’t sustainable; marketisation in the EU is unbridled, so that member states have little chance of combating destructive policies; and the European Commission persists in its greed for new terrains into which to expand its activities.

There might be cause to party if the leaders would acknowledge that one of the main impulses behind the original Treaty of Rome was to encourage cooperation on a number of specific, often technical policy areas. There was no mention then of a European Union, but rather of European Communities. Neoliberalism didn’t yet have the upper hand, and the multinationals’ lobby had yet to get going.

The heads of government would make an impression if they could agree that the reset button needs pushing, that a broad social debate is needed over the freedom which member states must have to decide for themselves on essential questions, such as their national budgets and the operation of public services; or that there must be a critical examination of the role of the European Commissioners and their exclusive right - exclusive of both the member states and the European Parliament – to propose new legislation.

There isn’t as yet any definitive text available telling us what the Declaration of Rome will be called, but the provisional texts show that the leaders hope to see ‘populism’ disappear from Europe, while the EU carries on in its old sweet way. In this they are underestimating the strength of social protest: from impoverished southern Europeans, exploited building workers and lorry drivers, small business people who have had enough of Brussels’ lust for regulation and all of the victims of the labour market flexibilisation for so many years advocated by the EU. They and many others with them have an entirely different story to tell and their anger over European Union policies has not gone away. If these government leaders fail to take such criticisms seriously, the end of the EU could arrive much more quickly than they might expect.

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