Ireland is the only country to have a vote on the Nice Treaty. Yet, despite us already clearly rejecting the treaty, the government is trying to force it on us again. This contempt for democracy is typical of the EU.
We are being asked to give more powers to the EU commission, an unelected, secretive body that is so corrupt it was forced to resign in its entirety in March 1999. We are being asked to give our support to the pro-business agenda of the EU, where the richer farmers receive enormous subsidies under the CAP, where corporation taxes are slashed while public services are cut. Is this the Europe we want?
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The European Union is committed to a far-reaching programme of privatisation. Step one in privatisation is making people pay for public services so as to make them profitable and attractive to investors. We can see this here with the bin charges, the back door re-introduction of fees for Third Level education and increased outsourcing in all areas. Privatisation inevitably results in worse working conditions, greater inequality of services, lay-offs and wage cuts as bosses seek to cut corners to maintain profits in a competitive marketplace.
The EU is also committed to negotiating far-reaching 'trade' agreements with international bodies like the WTO, made famous by the protests at its Seattle summit in 1999. Its brief history has shown that it serves to drive down environmental and labour standards across the world. For example, the state of California banned a petrol additive, MBTE, which had contaminated water supplies. A Canadian chemical firm sued California at the WTO. They argued that California should dig up and perfectly reseal all of its storage tanks to prevent the contamination, imposing a ban would be 'trade restrictive.'
The Nice treaty represents an important step in the EU's privatisation agenda. Nice will change Article 133 of the Treaty of Europe, so that the un-elected European Commission gains the power to impose "uniformity in measures of liberalisation". What this means is that they can order national governments to privatise services.
Article 133 will also give the EU Council and Commission power to negotiate agreements with the WTO, rather then national governments. At the WTO summit in Seattle in 1999, the EU commission announced their support for a bio-technology working party, causing 15 EU trade ministers to issue a joint statement of disagreement. If Nice passes, their disagreements would be irrelevant.
Just as the internal policy of the European Union is geared towards satisfying the interests of Big Business irrespective of social cost, so too are its global actions. The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP - a common front on world affairs from all EU governments) and the Rapid Reaction Force (the European Army) are the EU's tools to promote the interests of European Multinationals across the world. The Nice Treaty will bring Ireland into Europe's major military alliance, since the EU will directly take over responsibility for European military matters from the WEU (NATO's alliance of EU states of which Ireland is not a member).
If Nice passes, the EU will become responsible for 'crisis-management'. Columbia is an example of what this is likely to mean. The Columbian Government has liberalised it's economy, reduced trade taxes, sold off state owned companies, made contracts especially beneficial to foreign investment. British Petroleum, the Smurfit Group, and French supermarket chain Casino all have extensive interests there, to name but three. To push these plans through, the government has waged a civil war against the rural poor. Meanwhile, through the CFSP, E.U. governments contributed 200 million U.S. dollars to the Columbian Government's war funds. Humanitarianism? According to the Columbian police's own figures, over 80% of all the massacres there have been carried out by right wing paramilitaries, closely linked to state forces. The CFSP has nothing to do with humanitarianism. It is designed to ensure the flow of profits to EU multinationals like BP and Smurfit.
The EU's support for Colombia is not an isolated example. EU states, particularly Britain and France, the ex-colonial powers, are crucial for maintaining some of the most repressive regimes in the world. The brutal regimes of Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya and Burundi rely heavily upon EU aid for their survival. Through such support, the EU helps keep millions impoverished and thus likely to seek a better life within the E.U. The EU commission can now levy sanctions against any country that does not co-operate on migration controls - a sure way to encourage ever more repression in the third world. The EU's repressive anti-immigrant policies claimed the lives of at least 2,000 people between '93 and 2000, people drowned in the Mediterranean, electrocuted at the Channel Tunnel or suffocated in Wexford. This is 8 times as many as were killed at the Berlin Wall during its entire 30 year history. These policies are designed to make immigrants illegal and force them to survive in a precarious, hunted position, or live on short-term visas, dependant on work permits held by their employers. In both cases they are vulnerable and open to extreme exploitation as cheap labour.
The expansion of European police powers has gone hand in hand with the criminalisation of refugees. The EU has established a massive database to track refugees and allow "discreet surveillance" of citizens. In 1998 the European police force Europol was launched and its officers are immune from prosecution by national police forces.
The Nice Treaty brings us another step towards a Europe whose borders are closed to the global poor, a Europe where powerful trans-national police have enormous power to spy on anyone they deem a threat. Is this the Europe we want?
Many groups oppose the Nice treaty due to fears of a loss of "Irish Sovereignty". We don't think an Irish boss or an Irish government is in any way better than a Continental boss or Continental government. Nevertheless the Nice Treaty will introduce a new voting system, "Qualified Majority", which restricts the automatic veto of each country. This will make it easier for the European bosses to impose privatisation and cut backs on all the people of Europe. National governments will be able to claim that these changes have been forced upon them by the EU and may even publicly oppose them.
However, while we do call for a NO vote, this isn't enough. We don't think an X on a piece of paper, useful protest though it might be, can stop the superstate juggernaut. Ordinary working people taking action together can. The groups and individuals involved in this campaign are united by a vision of a better future, one without bosses or governments, be they in Dublin or Brussels. One in which all local communities are directly controlled by the people resident in them, and in which all workplaces are directly controlled by the people who work in them. A future where everyone has an equal say in the decisions that affect them.
Despite EU policies which favour big business, attack environmental and labour rights and victimise the most vulnerable, the trade union bureaucracy has supported successive EU treaties. In Ireland ICTU is supporting Nice, as is its EU conterpart ECTU. The Union bureaucrats have adopted this stance without the merest hint at consultation with their members. They have totally failed to stand up for workers' rights.
We are an alliance of groups and individuals who desire a Europe that is built from the bottom up, not imposed from above. We include members and supporters of the following groups:
Be a spanner in the works, not a cog in the machine - get involved LAN, c/o po box 178, Cork, 087-7501473
Media co-ordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org, 087-9934150
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