The procession of the multinationals' servants

3 June 2018

The procession of the multinationals' servants

We get them all in Strasbourg, the leaders of the member states' governments, determined to give us their vision of Europe's future. French president Emmanuel Macron was there in April, Luxembourg's prime minister  Xavier Bettel last week, and in a week-and-a-half it will be Dutch premier Mark  Rutte's turn. Macron's and Bettel's speeches were full of fine words about European values, but the latter inadvertently showed his true face when he insisted that taxes for multinationals should be, as far as he's concerned, kept down. Just as Macron abolished the tax on big capital (of a value exceeding €1.3 billion), on the grounds that he wants to encourage young people to themselves become billionaires (!), and just as Rutte is looking to get rid of the tax on dividends, Bettel did not enjoy my challenging his similar proposals and views during the debate which followed his speech. But they're all the same - Macron, Bettel and Rutte – the future of Europe doesn't interest them in the least. Their procession through Strasbourg is nothing but a parade of multinationals' servants.

The future of Europe is of course a very broad concept, and in a speech of this nature you can cover all aspects. But the real test concerns whether we will get a European Union which, just as it has done during the last thirty years, will be led by the nose by the multinationals' lobby. Or an EU which will use its influence to protect us from their power? Macron went on about European sovereignty; it's just a pity that he stuck out for an undiluted market economy, and that in his own country he is giving free rein to the superrich and investments by, you guessed it, the multinationals. Bettel also saw multinationals as an opportunity and not as a threat. As for Rutte, we know he's married to Shell, Unilever and other big boys. 

The criticism of the populists in eastern and southern Europe from these government leaders is unforgiving, but if they themselves are in bed with these big boys, how democratic is that in reality? If you're married to the idea of unbridled marketisation and for years have been demolishing social safety nets? And if you're schooling entire societies in competition, and in that way destroying social solidarity? Evidently the whole show will have to fall apart before this procession comes to an end. At the same time things could be different: we could have an EU which really defended us from the world markets, an EU which limited the flow of capital, an EU which has respect for our public services, and which belonged to us all instead of leaving us to fall prey to the CEOs with their bonuses and super-salaries. It's up to us and our sister parties to unmask these heads of government. Rutte can, I reckon, count on a warm welcome in Strasbourg, where I intend, on behalf of the whole United European Left group, to challenge him, just as I did Bettel, to show his true face. 

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