SP: message from European multinationals 'like a record that's stuck'

4 February 2010

SP: message from European multinationals 'like a record that's stuck'

On 2nd February the major European multinational corporations, united in the European Round Table of Industrialists published a statement of opinion, For a competitive Europe in 2025. For Dennis de Jong, Chair of the SP group in the European Parliament, this brought back bad memories: in 1985 the same group, then headed by Philips boss Wisse Dekker, brought out a similar report, one which led to the wave of liberalisation and privatisation which has since swept Europe. "A quarter of a century later they're still singing the same song, as if an old-fashioned gramophone record was stuck on a scratch. Once again we have first of all the dogma of the free market, despite the fact that analysts the world over have pronounced neoliberalism dead."

Dennis de JongDe Jong adds that "The multinationals assert that further privatisation would increase public confidence in Europe, despite the fact that a BBC survey in twenty-seven countries revealed that only 11% of the population believe in the blessings of the free market. It looks like there are two worlds: one in which management and chief executives can claim that liberalisation has been a big success and dish out huge bonuses to each other, and one for ordinary people who have to contend with the run-down of social security, with downward pressure on wages, possible redundancy or the prospect of working until they're 67."

Other recommendations included in this vision of the future by Philips boss Gerard Kleisterlee bear witness in De Jong's eyes to a lack of sensitivity to the consequences of the crisis. The EU, Kleisterlee suggests, should be more open to private equity. Nuclear power would bring closer a sustainable world. And health care must, the Philips executive said, be financed in such a way that the patient himself or herself bears more of the financial risk.

Not only would the poor in Europe pay the price for all this, but developing countries also come off rather badly in the multinationals' proposals. World trade should be further liberalised so that raw material prices can be lowered. And despite the rise in unemployment in Europe, Kleisterlee proposes recruiting information workers from the rest of the world. This would both produce an undesirable brain drain from the point of view of these other countries, but would make it still more difficult following their education and training for our young people to find a job.

Dennis de Jong calls on European government leaders to break with the neoliberal trend which has haunted Europe since the 1980s. "This is precisely the time to give people and not profits a central place in the economy," he says.

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