Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

A Coup in the European Union?


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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”