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Dec
2015
Thursday 3rd
posted by Morning Star in Features

An anti-austerity majority in Portugal was blocked from power by fearful elites. It’s nothing new in the EU, writes BRIAN DENNY


THE European Union has a familiar draconian response to any democratic mandate which it doesn’t care for: ignore it and then move Heaven and Earth to nullify it.

The latest flare-up in the long-running anti-democratic saga known as the “European project” is unfolding in Portugal, where the anti-austerity left has won a working electorial majority.

When the ruling pro-EU austerity conservative cabal in Lisbon lost the general election in October, the social democrats Partido Socialista (PS) sought to form a government with left-wing alliances Left Block (BE) and the Communist-led Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU).

However the right-wing President Anibal Cavaco Silva initially refused to accept the result, claiming that Portuguese governments have “never relied on the support of anti-European forces” and it is his “duty to do everything possible to prevent false signals being sent to financial institutions, investors and markets” — the main beneficiaries of EU diktats.

This is in a country where wages have dropped by nearly 20 per cent, more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, over a million people have left to find work elsewhere and public debt has ballooned from 94 to 129 per cent of the GDP.

Yet President Silva is demanding more of the same in a depopulated country saddled with Greek levels of unsustainable debt brought about by EU austerity measures that benefit no-one except the German economy.

Before finally agreeing to swear in PS leader Antonio Costa to head a new left-supported government, the president demanded that left-wing parties must “guarantee” support for next year’s austerity budget, pension cuts, euro membership, mass privatisation policies and Nato membership.

He also made clear that he would step in again if the social democrats failed to continue with the same policies as the previous right-wing government.

“I do not abdicate from any of the powers vested in the president,” he said, reiterating that he has the power to sack the government and delay or veto some policies passed by parliament until his term ends in March.

The EU, of course, has failed to comment on this latest attack on the democratic process.

That is because within the “European project” democratic majorities have been repeatedly nullified if they would not guarantee the implementation of a German-dictated austerity policy imposed on the entire eurozone.

In Italy prime minister Mario Monti’s unelected “cabinet of experts” ruled from November 2011 until April 2013 without any mandate at all.

The dreaded troika comprised of representatives of the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund now decides varying degrees of national policies in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.

In July the EU even ignored the Greek population’s clear rejection of continuing austerity by a three-fifths majority in a referendum on the question.

Greece was then punished with the imposition of even harsher austerity measures, carried out by the supposedly anti-austerity Syriza government.

Then, of course, there are the referendums that didn’t get the required results or were simply ignored by the EU and ruling elites as an inconvenience.

In June 1992 the Danish voted to reject the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum. However Danes were forced to vote again to ratify the treaty with some opt-outs. Some of these legal opt-outs will be abolished if Denmark votes the right way once more in today’s referendum.

In 2001 Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice, only to be forced to vote again until the right result was produced.

In 2005 French and Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution, forcing the EU to carry out a hurried cut-and-paste job, renaming this charter for corporate rule the Lisbon Treaty.

Governments in France and the Netherlands simply lied to their voters by repeating ludicrous EU claims that it was a different document. These so-called “differences” were never made clear and no self-respecting eurocrat would even dare to argue that now.

However Irish voters once again upset proceedings by rejecting the rewritten treaty in a referendum in 2008.

Brussels then used menaces against the Irish people by exploiting the growing economic crisis and forced another referendum.

The EU is also throwing its weight around beyond its borders, most famously by supporting the far-right coup in Ukraine and pumping millions of EU funds into thoroughly unpleasant organisations which ultimately seized power and are trying to ban socialist thought .

All this is very troubling to those on the left and liberals that still believe that the EU can be transformed into something wonderful.

Their claims that “another Europe is possible” seem more and more tragic but their unshakable faith remains enviably steadfast.

Supporting the Tory cause for staying in “Europe,” Green MP Caroline Lucas recently claimed in Parliament that the EU could work to “spread peace and make our economies more sustainable, and to promote democracy and human rights, at home and throughout the world.”

It would be easy to laugh this off with a verse of Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

But this blind acceptance is still widespread and whatever doubts your average liberal Eurofanatic may harbour are soon expelled when they read that Greek workers, struggling to survive in a devastated economy thanks to EU “bailouts,” still have the right to workplace risk assessments.

One think piece from Polly Toynbee about how agency workers are thriving thanks to the EU Agency Workers Directive and their Euroenthusiasm seems to be restored once more.

However it is unlikely that highly paid pro-EU pundits like these even know that this directive only kicks in after 12 weeks and a fiendishly clever opt-out, known as the Swedish Derogation, renders the whole thing useless.

Despite this admirably determined support for the EU, many liberals and Greens often do admit that the current state of affairs is hardly a democratic model to crow about.

Even EU cheerleader and former MEP Caroline Lucas argued in the same speech that the EU “must urgently change direction, away from an obsessive focus on competition and free trade.”

But the grim reality is that these are the very goals the EU was set up for and if any government tries to stop it, as we have seen, they will be punished. All that remains really is to decide when you have had enough punishment and it is time to leave the empire.

  • Brian Denny is Trade Unions Against the EU spokesman.



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