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:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail