Nice conference: Shame about the treaty

THE FRENCH Riviera is the venue for the European Union (EU) intergovernmental conference on 7/8 December. In Britain, the talks will provoke more media hysteria, and more voter indifference.

Manny Thain

The summit aims to draw up a Nice treaty, an extension of the treaty of Amsterdam (1997). One of the key themes will be the enlargement of the EU to incorporate a number of Central and Eastern European states, along with Cyprus and Malta. Turkey is also knocking on the door.

If enlargement goes ahead, the EU would be transformed. The influx of new member states will dramatically increase the overall poverty rate of the EU. About 17 % of the EU’s population is poor, ranging from 9.4% in Denmark to 33.3% in Portugal. Poverty ranges from 30% in Slovenia to 92% in Latvia.

David Piachaud asked in The Guardian (1 December): “Will the candidates ever catch up? Getting to the EU average by 2015 would require sustained levels of growth in the front-running states of between 5% and 9% every year – rates which far in excess of any achieved over a sustained period by any European nation ever.”

The effective exclusion of these countries from agricultural and other subsidies will exacerbate the gap in living standards between Western and Eastern Europe.

The ruling class of Western’ Europe is picking the choicest morsels from the former Eastern bloc, looting these states of their industrial, natural and human resources.

The myth of EU ‘free movement of labour’ will be shattered. A handpicked minority of technicians and skilled workers may be welcomed. But thousands of poverty-stricken Central and Eastern European peoples will not be permitted to move freely.

With 15 states aiming to join, the EU’s structures and representation will have to be reorganised. The present system gives disproportionate weight to the smaller states. The big players, however, are still able to dominate proceedings. Nice is about them ensuring that they do not lose control.

The EU may have failed to establish a dynamic single currency, but is unrivalled in its ability to coin phrases. French president, Jacques Chirac, sparked much consternation about a ‘two-speed’ Europe: that a core group in Europe would press on with the European project and leave the other states behind, particularly those on the, margins such as Britain.

All the states now agree, even though no one changed their position. A ‘two-speed’ Europe has become ‘enhanced co-operation’.

So, not only are Europe’s states co-operating like there’s no tomorrow, but that co-operation is enhanced. Now the British government says, “Two speeds, but not two tiers”. Glad that’s cleared up!

A bosses’ Europe

THE SERIOUS side is that the EU is and always will be an exclusive club run in the interests of the EU’s ruling classes – a bosses’ Europe. All the treaties, agreements and summits promote a big-business agenda: the ‘liberalisation’ of trade, economic and monetary union, cuts in social provision, and racist immigration laws. Rules and deregulations – all geared to the needs of the multinational corporations.

The Nice summit plans to launch a new charter of fundamental rights. This will be a statement of the EU’s commitment to human rights, but will not be part of the treaty.

Although not legally binding, the British delegation was instrumental in removing any references to the right to strike and protection against unjustified dismissal.

When EU leaders meet they will do so in the face of tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting at their anti-working class measures.

The Committee for a Workers’ International contingent will be pushing the need to build a socialist alternative to greed-based, profit-driven capitalism.

A genuine European Union of working-class people democratically planning the organisation of the economy and society – will only be possible if workers take control of society.

An international movement of working-class people could ensure that a continent could be built free from wage slavery, racism and discrimination – a socialist Europe based on human solidarity.