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The dark heart of Europe – Corporate Europe

Corporate Europe: how big business sets policies on food, climate and war, by David Cronin, reviewed by John Hilary
October 2013


If the Tories win the next election, we will have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. Thus promised David Cameron in January, in an attempt to counter the Eurosceptics in his own party and the steady rise of UKIP in the polls. Yet there is also a growing left critique of the EU from those concerned at its increasingly anti-democratic, neoliberal agenda. Ask yourself the question: if there was a referendum tomorrow, which way would you vote – and why?

David Cronin has worked in Brussels for the best part of 20 years, and few people are more familiar with EU politics. His latest book explodes once and for all the myth still promulgated by some on the centre left that the institutions of the EU can provide a counterweight to the power of transnational capital. Drawing on a wide range of internal documents and personal interviews, Cronin demonstrates how EU policies are largely dictated by the thousands of corporate lobbyists who swarm around the Belgian capital. One leading British MEP openly admitted that she had signed amendments watering down rules on hedge fund transparency that had been handed to her by the financial industry itself.

Cronin is not the first to expose the European Commission as a puppet show run for the benefit of capital, nor to point out the toxic horror that is the European Central Bank. Crucially, however, he also reveals how our elected representatives in the European parliament are just as amenable to corporate ‘persuasion’ as the unelected commission, and in some cases even more so. Anyone who believes the Lisbon treaty made the EU more democratic should think again.

Cronin’s book confirms the conclusion reached by many of us who have led campaigns against the EU’s neoliberal policies over the years – namely, that the heart of the problem lies in the anti-democratic, pro-corporate identity of the European Union itself. True democracy requires us to take power back from Brussels and build participatory forms of popular sovereignty instead.

John HilaryJohn Hilary is executive director of War on Want.

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Fabiana Falduto 5 October 2013, 09.55

In all the EU’s southern countries (France included), the dramatic impovrishement let the people in a “we have nothing to loose” feeling, a general mistrust of politicians and institutions, which can easily lead to extreme-right explosions… so, paradoxically, we still defend European Community as a guarantor of democracy…

Will Podmore 19 November 2013, 16.18

An EU-enthusiast admitted, “the benefits to employers do not necessarily equate to benefits for all.” Spending cuts press local authority employers to employ cheap (immigrant) labour. More than 60 per cent of care workers in London are foreign-born. Social care workers, like so many working in our essential services, get very low wages and have poor working conditions. It is publicly funded, but provided by private firms and voluntary bodies, so spending cuts have led to chronic underinvestment.

Foreign subcontractors, temp agencies and hiring companies employ millions of ‘posted workers’ on subprime wages and conditions across the EU – including ten to fifteen per cent of the building workers in Britain. The wage floors applied to posted and migrant workers are well below the going rates in national industries. The European Court of Justice restricted posted workers’ rights to a minimum and then outlawed all attempts to improve them. So it is hard for our trade unions to organise these workers. So much for the EU social model!

The 1957 Treaty of Rome, the EEC’s founding treaty, laid down “the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to freedom of movement of persons, services and capital.” The aim was and is to create a more flexible labour market. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam laid down that only the EU had competences in the areas of migration and asylum.

Who runs the EU? The European Roundtable of Industrialists, composed of the CEOs of the biggest corporations, is the real power in the EU. It drives all for the employers, all against the working class.

The IMF, the World Bank, the CBI, all back the EU’s three freedoms.
83 per cent of us want less migration, raising the issue of power – who decides? Us, or the EU for us? In 2007, we opted out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Now the European Court of Justice, for the EU, has opted us in. What next? Will the EU opt us into the euro? Into the next EU war?

We need a referendum as soon as possible, so that we can leave the EU as soon as possible. We have to organise in our workplaces, revive our trade unions and stand and fight where we are.

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