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EU Ė Agent of Capital

Will Podmore

HARRY VINCE Coulter rightly referred to the need to oppose "the EU mandarins and multis" in What Next? No.17. I would like to spell out some of the reasons why work against the EU deserves to be a very high priority for all socialists.

The EU promotes capitalism. It is explicitly committed to a private enterprise market economy. The Maastricht Treatyís Article 3a1 says that members must adopt "an economic policy which is ... conducted in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition." Big capitalist enterprises see themselves as above nations and seek ever-larger markets, sources of raw materials and sources of labour; not surprisingly they support forming a single EU state. For them, the free movement of capital and the elimination of tariff barriers and of barriers to migration between member countries are the EUís great advantages.

Article 13 of the Single European Act reads: "The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured." As we know, when employers talk about the free movement of goods, they mean strikebreaking. So in September 2000, when French workers blockaded Channel ports to cut fuel costs, the EU threatened to invoke the clause about the free movement of goods in order to justify efforts to break the blockade. When they talk of the free movement of persons, they mean unemployment and deskilling. They see the EU as a vast potential army of workers with a great array of skills, and at their backs a reserve army of 20 million unemployed. And when they talk of the free movement of capital, they mean closures. The EU aims to rid the EU members of industrial "over-capacity" by mass redundancies and closures. The European Commission admitted in 1993: "The single market programme has done more for business than it has for workers."

The EU promotes globalisation. It consistently advances Economic and Monetary Union, the Single European Market and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which all assist globalisation. In December 1998, the European Council reiterated "its commitment to the WTO as the basis for the EUís commercial policy and the main framework for further trade liberalisation. It reaffirms its support for comprehensive, wide-ranging WTO negotiations". As Peter Sutherland, GATTís Director-General in the mid-1980s, said: "We wouldnít have a WTO if the European Union did not have a common commercial policy and did not negotiate with one voice."

The EU promotes privatisation. It is the principal obstacle to an integrated transport system, which would balance the use of rail, bus, lorry and car, and tilt use towards public and away from private transport. Just when people were increasingly questioning the government dogma of market forces, along came the EU to make the dogma compulsory. EU Regulation EC91/440 required British Railís fragmentation through privatisation. With its usual exquisite timing, the EU recently agreed to copy across the whole EU the "British model" of privatising the railways.

In July 2000, the European Parliament approved a plan to create a "single European sky". Tory MEP Sir Robert Atkins introduced a report urging "the Council of Ministers to take the political decision that the Commission should develop a single sky over a single market ... run by a single European air traffic control". The idea is that all EU members should privatise their air traffic control agencies, and that these should work under the direction of a new EU agency, Eurocontrol.

The Blair governmentís privatisation scheme proposes cost cuts of up to 36%. Directors of the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) told the Government that these cuts pose an unacceptable threat to safety. They pointed out that in the air traffic industry "manning levels are absolutely critical to safety and service delivery". Further, the Civil Aviation Authority regulator expected cuts of between 16% and 29% in capital spending over the first five years of the privatised regime. This undermined ministersí repeated claims that the saleís main advantage would be increased investment.

The air traffic controllersí union, the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists (IPMS), said: "At a stroke, these proposals blow away the Governmentís rationale for this privatisation. Even Nats managers acknowledge that cuts on this scale would impact on safety. These proposals would be devastating to Nats and dangerous to travellers. The Government should drop its plans immediately." (See the union campaign website www. safeskies.co.uk)

If Britain joined the euro, this would be the worst thing for the workers of Europe, for the EU would use the much-vaunted "flexibility" of the British labour market, the privatisations and deregulation, against the workers of the other countries. EMU will exert strong pressures on European nations to "Americanise" their labour markets and welfare states, driving down wages, conditions, services and benefits.

Both the USA and the EU are pressing in the WTO for a strengthened General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), aiming to extend the private sectorís involvement in the service sector, including health care, social services and education. The EUís overriding commitment to trade liberalisation threatens the principles of universal coverage and health care funding, and the public provision of social welfare and education. The EU is opposed in principle to national health services. Wherever it can, it imposes privatisation of health services, for instance in Eastern Europe through its Phare programme and in collaboration with the World Bank.

The EU promotes war and repression. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin says: "By pooling its armies, Europe will be able to maintain internal security and to help prevent conflicts throughout the world." Blair told the Polish Stock Exchange in Warsaw on 6 October 2000 (characteristic of him, to address the Stock Exchange, not the Parliament) that "Europe today is no longer just about peace. It is about projecting collective power". This was a programme for war.

Some oppose the Euro-army because they believe that it would weaken NATO; some claim to welcome the Euro-army because they believe that it would weaken NATO. But the impact on NATO is not the point. We do not want a European army, because it would be a threat to Britain: the EUís leaders could well decide to use it against any people who wanted to leave the EU, any people whom they decreed to be insufficiently "European". Jospin has warned us: "By pooling its armies, Europe will be able to maintain internal security ...."