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]

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman