FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Coup in the European Union?

by SUSAN GEORGE

European Union workers’ pretentions to better pay and working conditions, shorter working lives, munificent retirement benefits, long holidays and time off for this and that have got to be brought under control!  Enough is enough!

Let us be thankful that the European Commission has the answers.  Soon the neoliberal model will become irreversible and all these pretentious upstarts will have to shut up once and for all.  High time too.   In a brilliant move, the  Commission has pushed through a bundle of measures called the “six-pack”—a cheerful name suggesting parties where the beer flows freely.  This bundle is rather more austere and will give the Commission hitherto unheard-of leverage in the affairs of its member States.

By a close vote on 28 September 2011, the European Parliament passed the Commission’s plan—a far-reaching takeover of individual countries’ capacity to set their own budgets and to manage their own sovereign debts.  From now on, the Parliament and the Council (with the Commission naturally overseeing the process) will be able to force governments to comply with the Maastricht Treaty recommendations—otherwise known as the “Stability and Growth Pact”–to which member States had recently paid precious little attention.  After 2005 this Pact seemed almost a quaint relic.  But now, thanks to the six-pack, no deficits greater than 3% and no national debts above 60% of GDP will be countenanced.  What these people need is stern discipline, make no mistake.

Starting in 2012, Euro-parliamentarians and the Council will dissect national budgets before national parliaments have any say at all or even a chance to look at them.  If countries do not reduce their debts fast enough or refuse the budgetary “suggestions” from Brussels, enforcement measures will kick in.  In case of further recalcitrance on the part of member States, punishment can mean either depositing or forfeiting .01, .02 or even .05% of the country’s GDP to the EU, depending on how severe the country’s non-compliance is judged.  In the case of, say, France, with a GDP of about €1.900 billion ($2.600 billion) the Commission could demand a deposit or a fine of some €20 to €40 billion  or even €100 billion if the Commission were to escalate the sanctions to .05% of GDP.

True to the Commission’s usual quietly efficient methods, these permanent six-pack measures went through the whole approval procedure with barely a ripple,  little debate and virtually zero citizen involvement.  Most Europeans have not the slightest inkling that any change has taken place, much less a savage attack on their governments’ capacity to govern.  Thanks to this legislation, we can count on the lasting power of neoliberal doctrine throughout Europe, particularly in the euro zone, as elected officials are dispossessed by appointed, non-accountable ones of their right to draw up their own budgets.  They lost the right to a say on monetary policy long ago.  .

The six-pack, thanks also to the right-wing euro-parliamentary majority is now firmly entrenched and will be difficult if not impossible to reverse.  Anywhere else, one might have heard accusations of a mass coup d’état against member State governments and their peoples.  But so far, all’s quiet on the EU front.

Simultaneously, the Commission is pushing the member States to follow another part of the neoliberal scenario through a variety of other directives ensuring longer work weeks and working lives and the gradual alignment of wages and social benefits according to lowest common denominators. This process may be a bit slower but will also be enhanced by the six-pack.

The European Court of Justice is doing its part on the second objective in particular with at least four separate judgments obliging workers to accept sub-standard wages even when working in countries with strong worker-protection laws like Sweden or Finland.

One has to admire the Commission’s capacity for discretion and getting things done without unnecessarily upsetting member States’ citizens or their national parliaments.  The apparent technical complexity of the measures and the process of putting them in place help to keep things quiet, although these measures are actually quite straightforward (and, one might add, have German fingerprints all over them).

Meanwhile, the largely neo-liberal European media see no reason to make an issue of what’s happening behind the scenes in Brussels and assist in keeping the lid on protest until too late for citizens to intervene.  All this spells greater victories ahead to come for neoliberalism and the failure of European economies.  No, sorry, only failure for 90 percent of the people.  The rest will be fine.  Not to worry.  As Martin Wolf recently paraphrased Tacitus in the Financial Times to describe the European situation, “They create a desert and call it stability”.

Susan George is a TranNational Institute fellow, President of the Board of TNI and honorary president of ATTAC-France [Association for Taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens]
More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail