European Constitution goes against the interests of the people

15 November 2004

European Constitution goes against the interests of the people

The concept text of the European Constitution does not deserve to be called Constitution. It is a political program of neo liberal cut that does not make Europe more democratic or transparent, but leads to militarisation of Europe. On more than one point, European civilians are worse off than before. The outcome of the several referenda that are to be held should be a loud and firm “No”, says Harry van Bommel, member of the Dutch parliament for the Socialist Party (SP).

In what way exactly does the European Constitution go against the interests of the people?

Van Bommel: “In the first place, member states will be obliged to expand their military apparatus. That is unheard of in a document that calls itself constitution. European countries are forced to spend more money on the defence budget. There will be a European army and a European weapons agency.”

But shouldn’t Europe be well equipped to act united against international terrorism? To make one big fist so to speak?

“An army can do nothing against terrorism, look at Iraq. But most importantly, Europe can only send out its troops, if it agrees on foreign policy. Again, look at Iraq and see how divided the different European governments were. The United Kingdom – as always eager to help out big brother the US – jumped at the request to send troops. France was absolutely against. The Netherlands – forced by its parliament – had to change ‘military support’ it wanted to send to ‘political support’. I don’t see Europe stand united any time soon.

Also: the relationship between a possible European army and NATO is not at all clear. Certain is that there will be one. The concept text of the constitution clearly states this connection, and thus the connection EU-US. There will be no room for a neutral position outside NATO, like Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Cyprus and Malta have.

The European army – like NATO – gives itself the right to intervene outside of European territory. Preferably backed by a resolution of the United Nations, but the Constitution also speaks of other possible mandates, for instance by the WEU, the EU itself or the European Council.

The worst is that, with the defence paragraph, war will become a political instrument, rather than a situation that should be avoided at all cost.”

Harry van Bommel continues: “Another objection is that with this Constitution, the neo-liberal model is formally instated. The foundations for a Europe in which the free market rules are being laid. In this Europe there won’t be any difference between the public and the private sector. Member states are forced to privatise civil services to pave the way for free competition. This is not in the interest of the people. On the contrary. The Netherlands have already surrendered big parts of the public sector to the free market. Public transport, electricity, a part of the postal services and the telephone have been privatised. The costumer did not at all benefit from this.”

Could you give an example?

“Certainly. The national railroad company, has become an enterprise that has profit as their main goal. The state is the one shareholder, but the company functions as if it were in private ownership.

Parts of the railway have been cut off the main line, so to speak, and were sold to private companies. People now have to change, but the different timetables don’t connect. Companies have cut several lines or offered fewer rides per hour. Public transport in rural areas has severely degenerated. I am talking about one bus every two hours in some small towns. The social function of public transport has been affected.

The privatisation district nursing services lead to mile long waiting lists and chaos at the auditing offices. People had to wait too long for the care they were entitled to. In this case privatisation was made undone. After ratification of the European Constitution, this will be forbidden.”

At least Europe will become more democratic, now that the position of the European parliament is enforced.

“Hmmm, well,” Van Bommel responds with little enthusiasm, “that is countered by a disturbed balance of power between the bigger and the smaller countries. In the long run, certain countries will lose their voting Commissioner and it is very unlike that that will be the United Kingdom, France or Germany. If so, they will surely be compensated by giving them the post of chairman of the Commission or that of the new Minister of Foreign affairs. In each case none of the great three will put up with unfavourable initiatives in foreign policy. We’ve all heard the powerplayers Blair, Chirac and Schröder say it in Berlin: ‘What is good for us is good for Europe’. The Constitution will enable them to impose their policy on Europe even more than before. National policy will become merely a dictate from Brussels.”

Is your party, the SP against any European Constitution?

“Europe doesn’t need a Constitution. Basic rights of individuals are already in the constitutions of member states as well as in the European Treaty for Human Rights. These suffice. People keep talking about the European Constitution, but that name is all wrong. It is not a constitution but a political program.”

The Socialist Party (SP), not to be confused with the Labour Party (PvdA) is the third largest party in the Netherlands when classified by membership. Almost 44.000 of the 16 million Dutch people are member. In the national parliament the SP occupies 9 seats of the total of 150. The party is the fastest grower on the left wing. The SP has got two Members of European Parliament. Erik Meijer and Kartika Liotard are part of the group GUE-NGL (United Left).

“The SP is in favour of a strong government”, says Harry van Bommel. “A government that has the tools at its disposal to intervene in the economy A government that reinforces the public sector. A government that guarantees its citizens access to a basic social security, healthcare and education. An assertive government, not a regressive one.”

by Christine de Vos, Paris, correspondent for Newropeans Magazine

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