FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Curse of the Euro

by DAVID CRONIN

I had a vicious teacher in primary school.  This flame-headed brute used to enjoy slapping his pupils with two dark brown canes that he had christened Katie and Maggie.  When he wasn’t inflicting pain on our tender palms, Mr C lectured us about why violence was wrong.

José Manuel Barroso reminds me of Mr C – even if the two men bear no physical resemblance to each other.  The European Commission chief is overseeing a sadistic experiment that has punished millions who had no role in causing the financial crisis. And now he pretends to have found a social conscience.

Barroso and his colleagues are starting this month with a cynical exercise in sugar-coating austerity.  A new policy paper from the Commissionadvocates that there should be more monitoring of employment policies within the euro-zone countries.  This is being presented as a bold effort to give the single currency a social dimension.

Don’t expect the sadism to be abandoned.  All euro-zone governments are under orders to hand in their national budgets for scrutiny to Brussels by 15 October.  The spending rules that are leading to the evisceration of many welfare states are still being enforced with rigour.

Giving a “social dimension” to the euro ignores how it is a fundamentally antisocial project.  I offer no 9780745333335_p0_v1_s260x420apologies for seeking to repeatedly draw attention to how the 1988 blueprint for the currency was drawn up by a cabal of corporate high-flyers with zero democratic mandate.  The Association for the Monetary Union of Europe, as that cabal was known, included representatives of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Total and British American Tobacco.  Its agenda was to realise the fantasies of fat-cats, not, as the spin-doctors told us, bring the peoples of Europe more closely together.

A quarter century later, a similar cabal is dictating the EU’s economic policies.  In June, the Union’s governments committed themselves to providing every young person with a job or apprenticeship within four months of leaving college or becoming unemployed.  Key elements of this “youth guarantee” proposal  were copied and pasted from recommendations made by the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), which bands together chairmen and chief executives of Shell, BP, Volvo, Nestlé and Heineken.

Far from being altruistic to our young, the ERT wants to provide them with a future of stress, uncertainty and yellow-pack jobs.  A  litany of demands from the group states that “employment protection measures must be re-designed and modernised” in most EU countries.

Its idea of “modernisation” involves retreating to an era before organised labour had won significant advances.  If the ERT gets its way, big companies will have to give much shorter notice before making workers redundant and severance payments for those losing their jobs will be drastically cut.  Payments for overtime and unused holidays may be abolished in the name of “flexibility”.

Jacques Delors is often hailed as a kind of visionary here in Brussels.  If his objective was to widen inequality and immiserate millions, then I guess he was a visionary.  For that is exactly what the Frenchman has achieved by backing the single currency project so effusively when he was the European Commission’s president.

Today, Delors runs a “think tank” called Notre Europe that is  partly-funded  by the energy giant GDF Suez.  His devotees continue to give the impression that the euro is worth saving, once its facade is scrubbed a little.

A new Notre Europe paper argues that the spending rule underpinning the euro should remain based on the principle that those disobeying them are punished.  Any “social dimension” that is introduced, on the other hand, should rely on incentives, rather than sanctions.

That sums it up, really.  Governments can still be bullied and coerced into slashing expenditure on health and education.  But any measures to cushion the blow will be considered optional.

It would be heartening if trade unions were fighting this antisocial agenda.  While numerous union activists are on the frontlines of resistance, some big players in the labour movement are too busy snuggling up to the bosses.

The European Trade Union Confederation has recently teamed up with the corporate coalition BusinessEurope to issue a joint proposal on tackling youth unemployment.  With its emphasis on “reforms” and “competitiveness” – both of which are synonyms for weakening labour rights – it reads like a diluted version of the ERT’s aforementioned litany.

The euro has been a curse for ordinary people.  Burying it is necessary if we are to envisage a fairer Europe.

David Cronin is the author of the new book Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War published by Pluto Press.

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

 

 

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail