Article from the Nov 2004 edition, the Socialist

Joe Higgins Column

THE LEADERS of the European Union recently signed off on the proposed new EU Constitution. This Constitution has to be put to the Irish people in a referendum for their approval or rejection. On many occasions in recent times in the Dail, in answers to questions from myself and others, the Taoiseach and government Ministers refused to specify the date for the referendum.

However most likely it will be held in the latter part of next year. That will be an important campaign in which the Socialist Party will play a leading role in calling for the rejection of the proposed Constitution. This is because the Constitution is a blueprint for the continuation, and intensification of the neo liberal capitalist policies of the EU. It also puts in place the mechanism for the creation of a military wing to act outside the borders of the European Union.

In a Dail debate following the November summit of European Union leaders, I drew attention to how the published conclusions of the Dutch EU Presidency pointed up some key themes, which clearly show the direction of the EU. I pointed out how the so called Lisbon Strategy, which the European Commission intends to make a key component of its policy, is in fact a blueprint for the intensification of neo liberal attacks on workers' rights, working conditions and pensions and an intensification of the drive to privatise public companies.

I pointed out how the German working class was now giving a flavour of what is to come in terms of its mass mobilisations in opposition to wide ranging attacks on social security rights. Despite the pathetic nature of the leadership of most of the European trade unions, other workers will follow suit.

A major fight back can be expected in the years ahead as the EU Commission, acting as an agent for the major European multinational corporations, attempts to squeeze further profits from workers through increased working hours, increased length of working life and reduced rights and conditions.

Just how out of touch the leaders of the European Union are with the feelings of hundreds of millions of Europeans was shown by the fact that the summit "warmly congratulated President George W. Bush on his re-elction". The Presidency document went on to say, "our close transatlantic partnership based on shared values is fundamental for Europe's app-roach to building international peace, security and prosperity and our deep political, economic and cultural ties make each other natural, indispensable partners".

Incredibly, a five-page declaration by the EU leaders on Iraq contains not a single mention of the fact that Iraq is under imperialist occupation including by Member States of the European Union. The EU Council dignifies the clutch of hand picked CIA stooges of the occupying powers by referring to them as a sovereign government.

I challenged the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, on these statements. I asked him whether describing the United States administration as natural and indispensable partners, meant that "The Irish government considers itself a partner in the illegal and brutal invasion of Iraq which has seen the slaughter of 100,000 people and its ongoing occupation" I further asked whether "shared values" meant that he supports an administration "that has built a gulag on its own doorstep in Guantanamo whose methods would rival any of the infamous gulags built by the Stalinists in Eastern Europe in their heyday".

The Minister indicated quite clearly that the government supports the assault on Fallujah as being necessary to establish peace and security in Iraq. The lessons of Vietnam are forgotten.

He lamely continued that he has to listen to myself "bleating on everyday about workers but that at least 100,000 people working in this country got their employment from American backed companies and therefore he makes no apologies for his position on the matter". As this exchange finished, I was obliged to remind the Minister that "sheep bleat but socialists articulate ideas".

More articles from this issue of the Socialist are listed here.

Other Joe Higgins columns are available in our sitemap