‘What common struggles for a Europe of cooperation in another globalization?’
Intervention by Yiorgos Koukoumas, member of the Central Committee of AKEL
International Meeting organized by the French Communist Party
7-8th February 2020, Paris, France
First of all, permit me to thank the French Communist Party for the invitation extended to AKEL to participate in today’s meeting. On this opportunity, AKEL would like to convey its solidarity with the struggles of the working people of France who are an inspiration, generating optimism and self-confidence among working people and the working class parties across Europe.
Every time discussions are taking place on European issues, they are dominated by one question: “What kind of Europe do we want?” This question is absolutely correct and timely. Nevertheless, there is an essential admission hidden in this question: If we are discussing today what kind of Europe we want, this means that something is wrong with the Europe we already have.
At the present stage the EU is going through, the deadlocks, inequalities and contradictions which it produces and faces cannot be overlooked or hidden. The peoples of Europe now have enough experience to draw their own conclusions about the EU. The assessments and warnings issued by the Left and the EU’s capitalist nature, course and policies have been confirmed and are vindicated on a daily basis.
- First and foremost, the EU promised prosperity. But the peoples of Europe are counting the numbers of unemployed, homeless and the poor by the millions, while billions of Euros are being channeled to bail-out the banks.
- The EU promised “peace”, but the EU is increasing its organic connection with NATO, constantly promoting and deepening its militarization, “investing” in the arms and war industry and arms trade. At the same time, it is also involved in escalating military interventions and aggressions against states and peoples.
- The EU promised “democracy”, “freedom” and “solidarity”. But democratic freedoms, including trade union rights, are all under attack. New mechanisms for filing, surveillance and controlling the Internet are being introduced, while in some member states the extreme-right forces – with the backing of the system – are spreading the poison of racist hatred and xenophobia.
All these processes are deepening the EU’s integration within the context of a process of neoliberalism in the economy, militarization and interventionism in international relations and the dramatic curbing of state and popular sovereignty.
These processes are consequently the product of the policies implemented jointly by the Right and social democracy at a European and national level for decades, but also as a result of the continuing negative political balance of forces within the EU’s bodies, but also within the member states. But first and foremost – and fundamentally! – all this is the end result of the EU’s Founding Treaties, which had planned the EU to evolve into what it is today.
The Treaties of the EU have, therefore, constitutionally established the capitalist model in an explicit way, through specific articles (Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 119, 120 and 127 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
Furthermore, the Treaties themselves (Article 26) establish the single market with the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital as the supreme principle which, as the European Court of Justice ruled in the Laval and Viking case a decade ago, legally justifies – for example – even restrictions on trade union activity as well.
The Treaties also prohibit any obstacles to the movement of capital to third countries (Article 63) and for that reason the EU plays a key role in the World Trade Organisation in opening up all the world’s economies to the infiltration of European monopolies.
Article 81 prohibits any State intervention in the economy that may affect trade between member states.
Article 121 gives the European Council and the European Commission – two unelected appointed bodies – the power over the general economic policy guidelines of the member states and the Union.
Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibit state aid, while Article 106 establishes a one-way privatization procedure, given that public enterprises (which aren’t prohibited theoretically) are apparently considered suspect of violating competition rules – whilst private monopolies have the right to raise objections before the courts.
Since we are talking about “globalization”, we must once again stress that it is precisely the capitalist nature of the EU itself that is pushing it to assert an ever greater share of the global market and spheres of geopolitical influence in competition with the other powerful centres of the world (USA, Russia, Japan and China) in order to continuously expand the scope of its business company giants. This includes promoting the abolition of any barriers to free trade, agreements for the integration of the markets (CETA, TTIP, JEFTA), the opening up of the markets of third countries to European monopolies and the promotion of unequal neo-colonial trade relations of dependency with countries of the developing world.
This objective is expressed by the economic and political content that the EU attaches to the Common Commercial Policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the Common Defense and Security Policy (CDSP), the Enlargement Policy, the Neighborhood Policy in the East and South, and the Partnership Agreements with other states, regions and international organizations.
All that I have referred to aren’t just some Directives, Regulations or Decisions of the EU, which supposedly might change if there were a different political balance of forces within the EU. All of these constitute integral and inseparable articles in the EU’s Founding Treaties, that is, they are part of the EU’s legal foundations.
Consequently, how can this framework change, given that any amendment to the Treaties demands unanimity in the European Council and/or additional ratification by all the 27 member states, which means that there must not be a single European government that would oppose such changes. A period where there won’t be not even a single neoliberal government in the EU is – I argue – not a hypothetical, but an impossible scenario. Things have reached such a point that the former President of the European Commission, Juncker, in 2015 declared that, “There can be no democratic choice against the Treaties.”
All these issues must preoccupy the progressive forces in Europe. Not by chance, AKEL, at its Programmatic Congress held in 2014, pointed out that “any attempt to implement a progressive and socially radical policy at national level presupposes a confrontation with the policies of the EU too”. And that is precisely why we are present in every process underway in Europe on these issues.
In our view, the answer to the deadlocks the EU faces is not to regress to nationalism, national capitalism and far-right Euroscepticism. The real progressive answer is to struggle for an alternative Europe. A Europe that will be built by the peoples. After all, the Left has never rejected the idea of unifying our continent in which peoples, nations, languages, religions and cultures coexist, given that in our view regional unification represents a step forward in historical evolution.
The question is WHAT KIND OF EUROPE do we want and WHO SHOULD IT SERVE?
We reply very clearly that we want a Europe of peace, social equality, democracy, cooperation and open multicultural societies.
The Europe of the Peoples and Socialism.
This struggle is inextricably linked to our day-to-day actions and assertions to stop the EU’s reactionary measures and policies. Goals for our struggle need to be projected that would meet the present needs of the peoples and workers. Progressive, pro-people’s and radical proposals, both within and outside the European Parliament, must constantly be elaborated and put forth.
Fully aware of the real nature of the EU itself and bearing in mind the negative political balance of forces at a European level, we choose the path of struggle that links – both in theory and in practice – today’s struggles with the vision for an alternative future. This is, after all, the way in which the communist Left gains the trust of the people, is acknowledged by them as their pioneering force and paves the way for great social changes and radical ruptures. We therefore have common struggles to wage in Europe and for more immediate assertions:
- A comprehensive and radical revision of the EU’s Economic Governance is demanded so that beyond the “fiscal discipline” criteria of member states binding economic and social criteria are introduced. It is extremely revealing that when it comes to deficits and public debt, the control/monitoring exercised by Brussels is suffocating and draconian. But as far as labour rights and people’s standard of living is concerned, everything moves in the realm of wishful thinking. Why doesn’t Brussels demand from governments that they should fulfill goals aiming at the reduction of poverty, regarding the levels of wages and the creation of full, permanent and dignified jobs?
- Radical and fundamental changes to the EU Treaties are demanded. For example, we propose a protocol to the Founding Treaties that will stipulate that throughout the Union’s legal, political and institutional system, where there is a conflict between economic freedoms and labour and social rights, the rights of the many will take precedent. And this is because we know that today, the EU has (and it is even articulated through EU Court rulings) officially and explicitly stated that economic freedoms (that is to say, the movement of capital from the big multinationals) take precedence over any other type of right and principle.
- In asserting an alternative developmental path in Europe and economies that should work for the many, namely for those who produce the wealth – not for the banks and the elite – struggles still need to be waged for a policy that will put an end to tax havens, to the free and deregulated movement of capital. The speculative profiteering activities of capital must be combated and taxed. More specifically, an all-European Agreement for the taxation of the multinational internet giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) is demanded, who in the EU today pay less than 0.5% tax. It is indeed outrageous that Apple pays just 0.005% tax and Facebook 0.03%.
- Working people’s labour gains must be restored and labour, human and social rights must be safeguarded by the assumption of immediate measures, such as the EU’s accession to the European Social Charter.
- As for a different globalization, Europe is called upon to truly and sincerely lead the way in forging development cooperation in the world – and not to make it a tool for its commercial/trade infiltration and fulfillment of its political objectives as well. And more practically, the commitment of member states to allocate 0.7% of their GDP to development aid and the promotion of the UN Millennium Development Goals needs to be implemented. We also need a Europe that will determinedly support the implementation of a legally binding UN Convention on companies and the application of Human Rights so that multinationals will not be able to find legal loopholes to escape their own responsibilities for committing human rights abuses.
At the same time, a Europe of co-operation can contribute towards the establishment of another world, provided that it is a Europe that will respect the Charter of the United Nations and International Law, including the principles of the self-determination of the peoples and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.
A Europe that rejects the arms race and the militarization of international relations; that acts to end the interventions and external aggressions; that rejects the dead-end strategy of confrontation with the Russian Federation and pursues the path of dialogue and cooperation; that will put an end to aggressive military alliances such as NATO, to the existence of foreign bases, and that will seek disarmament, including the abolition of nuclear weapons from the territory of its member states and the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
A Europe that will promote cooperation and friendship between the peoples around the world, equal and mutually beneficial political, economic, social and cultural cooperation.
In closing, dear friends, I would like to reiterate that Europe is not the European Union and the Brussels Directorate. Europe is the legacy and history of its peoples in class and socio-political struggles. Europe is the Revolutions that shook the world. From the French Revolution and the Russian October Revolution to the anti-fascist struggle to defend the Spanish Republic and the Anti-Fascist Victory of the Peoples over Hitler-fascism.
This is the Europe that unites the peoples – the Europe of the Peoples and Socialism!
Europe can only have a future if it is united. But it can only be united if it is reborn by its peoples and for its peoples.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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