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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une camisole pour imposer l’austérité aux peuples

by Pierre Ivorra

A Straight-Jacket to Impose Austerity on European Peoples

Translated Monday 17 May 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

By demanding the right to veto its member countries’ budgets, the European Commission challenges the peoples’ sovereignty and appears set to take a new step towards the authoritarian and ruinous super-austerity policy demanded by Angela Merkel and supported by Nicolas Sarkozy

In several European countries yesterday the governments’ tougher austerity plans were leaked out in the press. Several Italian papers revealed that a one-year wage freeze for public workers was under study. The Spanish press itself commented on the austerity measures announced by the government last Wednesday: cuts in public workers’ salaries, cancellation of increases that had been announced for some pensions and the scrapping of planned investments… In Portugal the morning dailies announced measures presented by the government only in the afternoon, which provide for tax increases.

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have it their way

The same determination to harden public policies is at the heart of the European Commission’s demand, last Wednesday, to vet the States’ budgetary plans. The idea is to make it compulsory for governments to submit their finance bills to the Commission, prior to their being examined and commented by the council of the euro zone Finance and Economy ministers, and before they are eventually submitted to national parliaments. The German chancellor said last Wednesday that this proposal constitutes “a big step in the right direction”. The French finance minister Christine Lagarde herself declared that France was willing to discuss the proposal.

These moves have been cloaked with hypocrisy.

Indeed, the Commission’s request does not come out of the blue. It formalizes a request made by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy in their joint letter dated May 6th to the European Council’s president and to the Commission’s president on the day before the EU countries’ last summit. In that text, the two leaders demanded “a tighter budgetary control in the euro area with more efficient sanctions against excessive budgetary deficit procedures and a stronger coherence between the states’ budgetary procedures and the stability and growth pact.” Euro zone leaders besides specified in their statement after last Friday’s EU council that they expressly asked the European Commission and the council of finance and economy ministers to make sure “the recommendations addressed to member states within the framework of the stability pact were rigorously implemented,” which implied “accelerating budgetary consolidation”.

So it is clear that the Commission has just been orchestrating demands that have been previously addressed to it, demands that seriously jeopardize the peoples’ sovereignty.

Why is the European commission forging ahead with its authoritarian and anti-social policy?

The setting up of an economic, financial and political union around a single currency destined to boost capital and financial markets has resulted in an economic and social disaster. The European treaties have proved unable to address the crisis that is rocking Europe. But rather than draw the consequences, European, and especially German and French leaders want to go one better, to pile up austerity measures on austerity measures, tighten the anti-popular, bureaucratic institutional straight-jacket that has contributed to the crisis and set Europe on fire. In so doing, they are hoping to make the European peoples pay for the crisis and the speculation of banks and finance, and to ensure high profit rates again for banks and funds. Fear of popular resistance to this policy explains the authoritarian drift.

The European social model under threat

The Commission and the governments’ relentlessness jeopardizes the European social model. It is dangerous for democracy and European people’s living conditions. As economic figures for the first term of 2010 show, it hampers economic recovery, stifles growth, fuels unemployment, jeopardizes public services, keeps wages down. And yet it is necessary to set about re-orienting the construction of the European union. Which entails the denunciation of European treaties and new foundations. A social stimulus package and the democratization of the Union are prerequisites to ward off Europe’s implosion. This means changing the role of the euro and of the European Central Bank. The future of this new economic, social, and political triptych will depend on the peoples’ struggles.

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