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Tackling the EU Empire: basic critical facts on EU/Eurozone – a handbook for European Democrats

TACKLING THE EU EMPIRE    

Basic critical facts on the EU/Eurozone

handbook for Europe’s democrats, whether politically Left, Right or Centre                

“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”   –  EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, 2007

Readers are invited to use or adapt this document in whole or in part for their own purposes, including changing its title if desired, and to circulate it to others without any need of reference to or acknowledgement of its source.

Contents

  • The EU’s myth of origin
  • EU ideology: supranationalism v. internationalism
  • A spin-off of the Cold War
  • The euro as a response to German reunification
  • The intoxication of Big Powerdom
  • EU expansion from six to 28; “Brexit”
  • The economic basis of the EU
  • The succession of EU treaties: the 1957 Treaty ofRome
  • The 1987 Single European Act (SEA)
  • The 1992 Maastricht Treaty on European Union
  • The 1998 Amsterdam Treaty
  • The 2001 Nice Treaty
  • The 2009 Lisbon Treaty: the EU’s Constitution
  • EU Powers and National Powers
  • The “doctrine of the occupied field”; Subsidiarity
  • More voting power for the Big States under the Lisbon Treaty
  • How the EU is run: the Brussels Commission
  • The Council of Ministers
  • The European Council
  • The European Parliament
  • The Court of Justice (ECJ) as a Constitution-maker
  • The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • The extent of EU laws
  • Is Another Europe, a Social Europe, possible?
  • How the EU is financed
  • Why national politicians surrender powers to the EU
  • The EU’s assault on national democracy
  • EU Justice, “Home Affairs” and Crime; Migration, Schengen
  • The Common Foreign and Security policy: EU militarization
  • The euro: from EU to Eurozone federalism
  • The euro, the bank crisis and the sovereign debt crisis
  • Two treaties for the Eurozone: The Fiscal Compact and the ESM Treaty
  • No European people or demos to provide a basis for an EU democracy
  • How the Eurozone prevents the “PIIGS” countries overcoming the economic crisis
  • The benefits of restoring national currencies
  • Contrast Iceland
  • Tackling the EU Leviathan
  • Democrats on Centre, Left and Right for national independence and democracy
  • Conclusion: Europe’s Future
  • Ireland’s EU membership
  • Abolishing the punt and adopting the euro
  • Ireland’s experience of an independent currency 1993-1999
  • The 2008 bank guarantee and the 2010 Eurozone bailout
  • Reestablishing an independent Irish currency
  • Some political consequences of Ireland’s EU membership
  • An independent democratic future
  • Useful sources of information on the EU
  • Reference Notes
  • An invitation

 

THE EU’S MYTH OF ORIGIN:  All States and aspiring States have their “myth of origin” – that is, a story, true or false, of how they came into being. The myth of origin of the European Union is that it is essentially a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France, as if a collective tendency to go to war were somehow genetically inherited.  In reality the EU’s origins lie in war preparations – at the start of the Cold War which followed the end of World War 2 and the possibility of that developing into a “hot war”, a real military conflict between the two victorious post-war superpowers, the USA and USSR.

Tuilleadh

10 Reasons Irish People in North, & Britain, Should Vote “Leave” #Brexit

Is another EU really possible? How realistic is a “Social Europe”? (Prof Danny Nicol) #brexit

The article below, dated 29 February,  was written by Professor Danny Nicol, Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster 

IS ANOTHER EUROPE POSSIBLE?

by Professor Danny Nicol

Is the European Union an empty vessel into which any political content may be poured? Can it accommodate not just neoliberal conservatism but also Keynesian social democracy, hard-line greenery and even pro-nationalisation democratic socialism?  
A new UK campaign, “Another
Europe is Possible”, would have us believe this, and is touting for votes in the EU referendum on the basis that the Union can be changed into a more socialistic entity, “not [by] a network of politicians but grassroots
activists across the UK”. 

The same optimism is apparent in the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 2025) in which Mr Yanis Varoufakis looms
large. With the ferocity of tigers protecting their young, these
progressives attack those who single out the EU as a hotbed of
neoliberalism. ‘Can you name an institution not dominated by
neoliberalism?’ argued Marina Prentoulis of Syriza UK at the launch of “Another Europe”: ‘National governments are pushing a neoliberal agenda
too’.

It speaks volumes that Syriza, a party implementing austerity at the EU’s behest, is accorded star billing in this supposedly anti-neoliberal venture.

What Peter Sutherland REALLY thinks about the EU migration crisis

Yesterday morning Ivan Yates of Newstalk 106 interviewed Peter Sutherland, UN Secretary General’s international representative on migration, on the EU migration crisis. 

Mr Sutherland’s solution is to “Europeanise” the matter by supporting EU mandatory quotas for distributing refugees and economic migrants around the EU – a policy for which the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government voted last September, although Ireland has a treaty opt-out from EU migration policy.  

The EU’s aim of replacing Europe’s long-established nations and national cultures with multicultural societies by encouraging population inflows was revealingly expressed by Mr Sutherland in his evidence to the Committee on Migration of the British House of Commons in June 2012 when he said  the following:

“The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others. And that’s precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing to undermine.”    (emphasis added)  
Source: BBC report, 12 June 2012; http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-18519395
 
Yesterday the EU Commission announced that Ireland has agreed to join an EU mechanism that will seek to relocate 140,000 asylum seekers by 2017. 

The EU Court of Justice has also just ruled that refugees granted international protection by one EU Member State can freely live and move anywhere they want in other Member States. 

Anthony Coughlan
Director
The National Patform EU Research and Information Centre
Tel.: 01-8305792 

What is the point of the 1916 commemorations?

One value of the 1916 Rising commemorations is to highlight the contrast between the aspirations of those who set out to establish an independent Irish State for the island of Ireland and the reality of what exists here today –  a partitioned country whose native language, Irish,  is on the verge of death as a cradle-spoken tongue, and in which  the  State that did come from the independence movement has been reduced to provincial or regional status in a supranational EU quasi-Federation that now makes most of Ireland’s laws. 

The Easter Proclamation read: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be sovereign and indefeasible.” 

“Indefeasible” means  cannot be lost.  That right may notionally exist still,  but the reality of a sovereign State in which its own Parliament and Government are the sole source of the laws prevailing in its territory has clearly been lost through Irish membership of the EU – as indeed has happened with the 27 other EU States. 

Growing public awareness of this fact, in Ireland and other EU countries, is at the root of the current EU discontents.  

Article 29.4 of the Constitution, which was inserted by  referendum in 1972 to enable Ireland to join the then European Economic Community (EEC),  gives European law primacy over any countervailing Irish law. It reads: “No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said Europen Union from having the force of law in the State.” 

Realisation of the implications of supranational EU law being given primacy by this amendment over the provisions of the 1937 Irish Constitution that he had personally drafted led then President Eamon De Valera to say rather poignantly to his family on New Year’s Eve 1972, the day before this change took place: “I am the first and last President of an independent Irish Republic.” So Eamon O Cuiv TD, De Valera’s grandson, who was present on that occasion, told me. 

The loss of sovereignty has gone much further since. 

In 1999 Ireland abolished its national currency and joined the Eurozone, thereby abandoning control of  either  its rate of interest or its exchange rate – the former essential for controlling credit, the latter for influencing economic competitiveness. 

EU Commission President Romano Prodi underlined the political significance of this step when he said at the time, “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency, and we have changed that.”

The 1987 Single European Act treaty, the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the 1998 Amsterdam Treaty and the 2001 Nice Treaty saw further growth of EU powers and simultaneous diminution of national State powers. Ratification in each case  required constitutional referendums in Ireland.

The transfer of national legislative, executive and judicial powers to the EU institutions culminated in the Treaty of Lisbon. When Irish voters rejected ratification of that treaty in 2008, they were made vote on exactly the same treaty the year after to obtain a different result. 

In the Lisbon Two referendum the constitutional amendment permitting Lisbon’s ratification differed from that in Lisbon One in that it included the sentence: “Ireland affirms its commitment to the European Union…” 

This was one State affirming a constitutional “commitment” to another group of States – surely a remarkable development? Yet the Explanatory Handbook which the statutory Referendum Commission sent to all voter households at the time to inform them what Lisbon was about, did not refer to this change. Neither, so far as I know, did anyone in the Irish media.    

The Lisbon Treaty replaced the existing European Community with  a European Union which had full legal personality and its own Constitution for the first time. It  made citizens of the different Member States into real citizens of this new federal-type Union for the first time also. 

One can only be a citizen of a State.  Before Lisbon, citizenship of the then embryonic EU was stated to “complement”national citizenship. It was an essentially notional or honorary concept. The Lisbon Treaty (Art.20 TFEU) provided that EU citizenship should be “in addition to” one’s national citizenship, just as citizens of provincial states like California, Massachusetts, Bavaria or Brandenburg have two citizenships, for they are citizens also of their respective Federal States, the USA and Germany.

Lisbon also gave explicit primacy to EU law over national law for the first time in a treaty.  In most years the majority of laws that are put through the national Parliaments of the EU Member States now come from Brussels, although most people do not realise this. 

Eur-Lex estimates that there are currently some 134,000 EU rules, international agreements and legal acts binding on or affecting citizens across the EU. These include 1842 EU Directives, 11,547 Regulations, 18,545 Decisions, 15,023 EU Court verdicts and 62,397 international standards which the EU has signed up to and which are therefore binding on all its members.  If a Member States does not obey any one of these, the EU Court of Justice can impose heavy daily fines to enforce compliance. 

The EU Treaties prevent voters at national level, their parliaments and governments from amending or abolishing a single one of these laws or rules. Any move entailing changes to the Treaties requires the unanimous agreement of the governments of all 28 Member States. Any change to these other rules requires either unanimity or a qualified majority vote. 

This is the practical problem facing those who contend that “another Europe is possible” by reforming the EU at supranational level in the hope of making it more democratic, or who think that the EU can be transformed into a so-called “Social Europe”.   

The EU Treaties effectively shift power away from citizen voters in all EU countries and from small and middle-sized Member States to the larger ones and to the unelected Brussels Commission. 

The post-Lisbon EU now has its own government with a legislative, executive and judicial arm, its own political President (Poland’s Donald Tusk), its own citizens and citizenship, its own human and civil rights code, its own currency, economic policy and revenue, its own international treaty-making powers, foreign policy, foreign minister (High Representative), diplomatic corps and UN voice, its own crime and justice code and public prosecutor’s office. It already possesses such State symbols as its own flag, anthem, motto and annual official holiday, Europe Day, 9 May.  

As regards the “State authority” of the post-Lisbon Union, this is embodied in the EU’s own executive, legislative and judicial institutions: the European Council, Council of Ministers, Commission, Parliament and Court of Justice.  It is embodied also in the Member States and their authorities as they implement and apply EU law and interpret and apply national law in conformity with Union law.  This they are constitutionally required to do under the Lisbon Treaty, just as in any Federation. 

Thus EU “State authorities” as represented by EU soldiers and policemen patrolling Europe’s streets in EU uniforms, are not needed as such. Their absence makes it all the easier to hide from ordinary citizens the reality of Europe’s hollowed-out nation States and the failure of their own mainstream politicians to defend their national democracies.

Whatever this is, and whether one thinks it is a good thing or not, it is certainly not “the unfettered control of Irish destinies” which the men and women of 1916 fought and died for. 

“Nationalism before socialism” – @VillageMagIRE

The Left & Europe (Village Magazine)

THE LEFT AND EUROPE  by Anthony Coughlan, September issue,  Village Magazine, Dublin

The political Left, whether social democratic, communist or trotskyist,  has always found the European Union problematic. This is because  superanational EU “integration” poses the issue of national independence and national democracy so acutely, which many on the Left find embarrassing. They prefer to concentrate on economic issues, for on political ones like national independence they fear being found on the same side as the Right. Their political sectarianism makes that hard for them to cope with.

The EU shifts a myriad of government functions from the national level, where they have traditionally been under the control of democratically elected parliaments and governments, to the supranational, where the bureaucrats of the EU Commission have the monopoly of legislative initiative and where technocracy rules. Should the Left oppose or support this process?

The classical socialist position is clear. It is that Leftwingers should eschew “economism” and should seek to give a lead on democratic political questions as well as economic ones. They thereby put themselves in the best position to win political hegemony in their respective countries and to implement leftwing economic measures in due course when their peoples desire these.

Marx and Engels took it for granted that socialism could only be achieved in independent national States. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 they wrote: “Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.” They supported Irish independence from Britain. Engels wrote to his friend Kugelman: “There are two oppressed peoples in Europe, the Irish and the Poles, who are never more international than when they are most national.”

Their Irish follower, James Connolly, showed by his political practice in allying himself with the radical democrats of the IRB in the 1916 Easter Rising that he regarded the establishment of a fully independent Irish State as the prerequisite of being able to achieve the socialist measures that he advocated. While awaiting execution he speculated on how the international socialist press would interpret the Dublin rebellion: “They will never understand why I am here. They will all forget I am an Irishman.”

Outside Europe the proposition that the Left should be the foremost advocates of national sovereignty would be taken as self-evident. The strength of communism in Asian countries like China and Vietnam rests on its identification with nationalism. The appeal of the Left in Latin America is largely based on its opposition to Yankee imperialism. Only in Europe do so many Leftwingers regard the defence of national independence in face of EU integration as “right-wing” and therefore by definition reactionary.

This is primarily due to the fact that the main countries of Western Europe – France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy etc. – were all imperial powers in their day and historically their mainstream Labour Movements identified with that imperialism and its colonial accompaniments. With honourable if marginal exceptions, the national Labour Movements in these countries supported their respective national bourgeoisies in going to war with one another in World Wars 1 and 2.

In the second half of the 20th century transnational capital became predominant over national capital in the advanced industrial world. In Europe continental social democrats now shifted to backing European-based transnational capital in supporting its main political project, the construction of a supranational power, the EU/Eurozone, in which the classical principles of capitalist laissez faire – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour – would for the first time in history have the force of constitutional law.

In Britain and Ireland Labour initially dissented. The political tradition in Britain is that all the main issues of national policy are decided inside the Tory Party, with the rest of society having bit parts. Joining the EEC became the central goal of Conservative policy from 1961. The Labour Left originally opposed this, as indeed in this country the Irish Labour Party opposed Irish membership of the EEC in our 1972 Accession referendum. Under Michael Foot’s leadership British Labour advocated the UK’s withdrawal from the EEC in the 1983 general election.

Then in 1988, with Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, Commission President Jacques Delors, a French socialist, wooed the British TUC at Blackpool and Ireland’s ICTU at Malahide and promised them labour-friendly legislation from Brussels which they would never get at home. The Trade Union leaders embraced “social Europe” and much of the Labour Left followed them, in some cases becoming missionaries for the grand “project”. As the downside of  the EU/Eurozone became clear in recent years, Euro-scepticism began to grow on the political Right. Now some on the Left are starting to follow the Right in that too, in Southern Europe and  maybe in Britain.

In France and Italy the central role of communists in the war-time Resistance and their consequent appeal to national sentiment gave these countries mass communist parties for three decades after World War 2. A key factor in the subsequent decline of these parties was their embrace of the EC/EU in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the tenets of  “Eurocommunism”.

In France this volte-face was necessary to allow Communist Ministers join Francois Mitterand’s socialist government in 1981. I recall the labour historian Desmond Greaves remarking at the time; “This will revive fascism in France.” That was before anyone had heard of Le Pen.The French CP, which had one-quarter of the seats in France’s National Assembly in 1956, has 2% there today. Many former French workingclass communist voters now vote for the National Front.

Leftwingers in the trotskyist tradition tend to be upholders of EU supranationalism as “objectively progressive”, while stigmatising concern for national independence as nationalism and “rightwing”. This goes back to Trotsky’s famous dispute with Stalin in the 1920s over whether it was possible to build socialism in one country – that being Stalin’s view –  or whether it required a more general transformation, world revolution, as Trotsky thought.  The EU is assumed to provide a more favourable field for socialism because it is at once bigger and it is trans-national, although it is hard to see how socialist-type restrictions on capital can come from a body one of whose constitutional principles is free movement of capital.

The EU institutions and their national extensions are populated with people who were on the trotskyist Left in their youth and who feel no qualms at the EU’s assaults on national democracy. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Portuguese Commission President J.M. Barroso are among those with such a background who have advanced supranationalism. Left-sounding arguments for the EU go down well in circles where “socialism” is no way a realistic danger, but where “nationalism” very much is – that is, the nationalism which resists losing national independence and democracy.

Leftist rhetoric, radical-sounding,  has helped grease many a lucrative EU career path.

Leftist Europhilia of this kind has been influential in the ideological collapse of Greece’s Syriza, which made its leadership adopt policies the opposite of what they were elected on. While loud against “austerity”  Messrs Tsipris, Varoufakis and Tsakalotos continually proclaimed themselves believers in the EU, which they seemed to think could be transformed into a force for cross-national solidarity and Euro-Keynesianism by dint of rhetorical argument.

When it came to the crunch they lacked the courage to go for a “Grexit”, a repudiation of Greece’s mountainous debts and a devaluation of a restored drachma. Yet only such a policy can revive Greece’s lost competititiveness, stimulate its home demand and bring back economic growth, for Greece’s third bailout will not work.

The dissenters in Syriza are now advocating such a course, as are the Greek communists and others. The Syriza collapse is educational for Leftwingers everywhere. It illustrates the old truth that the establishment or re-establishment of national independence – which means a State having its own currency and with it control of either its interest rate or its exchange rate –  must be central to any meaningful campaign against neoliberalism and banker-imposed austerity, not to mind “socialism”, however one might define that.

(Anthony Coughlan is Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin)

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