The true face of the EU

25 July 2016

The true face of the EU

What many in the offices in Brussels had not believed possible has nevertheless occurred: the British voted against continued membership of the European Union. The system must be transformed root-and-branch, a fact which has already been proved by the haughty nature of the reactions. Now the dust-clouds surrounding the referendum have cleared, ‘Brussels’ is showing its true face.

By Dennis de Jong

On 23rd June the British people voted on the question of whether they wished their country to remain a member of the European Union. On the day, the mood in Brussels was excellent. The financial markets predicted that all would end well, that the British would vote for ‘Bremain’ and that the country would stay, as was right and proper, in the EU. And in ‘Brussels’ the market is the measure of all things. So the shock was correspondingly great on 24th June. This surely can’t be true? A majority of the UK’s voters were against EU membership. ‘Brussels’ was shaken to its foundations and soon enough the masks feel away.

In the neighbourhood of the European institutions is a hotel in which the bar section is, during every European Championship or World Cup, hired by lobbyists. Anyone who works for one of the EU institutions can come along and watch the games. On 27th June England played Iceland. The europhiles gathered in the hotel could not conceal their glee: the English themselves had been beaten by little Iceland! Wonderful, hey? Nothing would survive of that crumbling island outside the EU and this match provided a foretaste of that.

‘Take part in the game or get off the field!’

On 28th June the European Parliament met in emergency session. In haughty tones the centre-right European People’s Party, the centrist Liberals and the and centre-left Socialists and Democrats demanded the UK’s immediate withdrawal from the EU. That was, after all, what the British people had said they wanted and word must be added to deed. The president of the European Commission asked UKIP Members, “What are you still doing here?” and urged British MEPs to clear off.

The European institutions can be very nice indeed. If you cooperate in creating ever more EU rules and regulations, if you’re a supporter of a federal Europe and, first and foremost, if you have an eye for the multinationals’ interests, Brussels is fun. If on the other hand you’ve see through the malign plans of Juncker and the European Parliament establishment, then these same EU institutions can become, instead, rather unpleasant. That’s what the British have experienced as a result of their referendum: do as you’re told or get out! The Greeks have already been through this: when the leader of our sister party Syriza dared to call a referendum on the pernicious plans pf the Troika of European Commission, ECB and IMF, the knives were drawn and sharpened. They were sharpened even further when the vast majority of Greeks rejected the Troika’s plans. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the same thing then: either you do everything precisely as instructed, or you’re out: Grexit.

For twenty-five years ‘Brussels’ has been the plaything of the multinationals. Precisely because the European legislative process is so complicated, it is very distant from the common man or woman. This gives the multinationals a free hand. No wonder that there are tens of thousands of lobbyists active in Brussels, most of them in the service of major corporations. They know their way around the EU institutions and they know how to get them to do their bidding. With meals and receptions, and even with personalities such as the ‘Nederhop’ artist Gers Pardoel, whom they got to sign a declaration backing a broadening of copyright. Even the state broadcasting service news of the Netherlands, NOS Journaal, presented this last as a ‘news item’.

Hijacked by multinationals

The EU institutions are rotten to the core. There’s the European Commissioners who, together with their thousands of officials, have only one ambition: more power for ‘Brussels’. There’s the MEPs who enjoy their privileges while being led around by lobbyists. That’s why they try to ignore or negate the results of referenda such as those in the Netherlands and France is 2005 which said no to the European Constitution, or the one in the Netherlands earlier this year which rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and now this one on Britain’s EU membership. If that doesn’t work, they rant and rail against the ‘populists’. Yet they fail to see or don’t wish to see that the public has had enough of the rotten system which the EU has become.

The SP is in favour of European cooperation. That’s precisely why we are so angry about the fact that the EU has been hijacked by the ‘European Round Table of Industrialists’, by the multinationals. If we can learn one thing from the result of the Brexit referendum, it is indeed that the European Union must be thoroughly transformed.

On a concrete level we have four demands: the Commission in its present form must be abolished; economic governance and budgetary fetishism must be consigned to the dustbin; we must set limits to the internal market if the situation demands it; and on any transfer of powers from The Hague to Brussels the Dutch citizen must have his or her say via referendum.

The EU must become a looser grouping. Everyone doesn’t need to participate in everything and national parliaments must again have the last word on their own countries’ budgets and on the organisation of public services. That’s what people in Europe want and that’s what the SP stands for, and we are the only party which does, including when it comes to general elections. Let the Dutch electorate choose next year: the establishment parties : Labour, Christian democrats, the centre-right Liberals of the VVD and the centrist liberals of D66; or the far right PVV’s scattergun rejection of anyone who doesn’t fit their narrow criteria; or the SP’s realistic plans in which ordinary people regain some say over what’s going on around them. Surely this choice can’t be difficult.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the July-August edition of the SP magazine Tribune.

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