by Anita Halpin
A generation ago Jacques Delors told TUC delegates that the ‘European project’ would guarantee jobs, workers rights and safeguard our welfare state. But this vision of Social Europe was unachievable.
The future direction of the EU had been crafted two years earlier in the Single European Act (SEA). Its stated objective was the end of all obstacles within the EU to the free movement of capital, labour, goods and services.
The Act contained a commitment to establish a single currency, thus creating both economic and monetary union and all the institutions and directives have only one purpose. to serve the interests of monopoly capitalism.
Over the years directives stemming from the SEA have required states to
- end the public ownership of basic utilities including transport, post, communications, energy and banks;
- end ‘state aid’ for industry;
- introduce compulsory competitive tendering in the public sector;
- end council direct labour schemes;
- introduce private pension schemes.
The effects of these directives have been exactly the opposite to what so many trade unionists thought Delors had promised them over 25 years ago, and a stark reminder of exactly how much power the EU has to dictate domestic policy to member states.
And now, the jewel in the crown of our welfare state – the NHS – is under dire threat, as is the whole range of state education with the proposed European Union/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that the provision of health and education would be safe from the most unscrupulous of privateering vultures. Currently being negotiated in secret between the EU and USA, TTIP is set to be the biggest transfer of power to transnational capital in a generation.
Worst of all, are the EU’s mandatory deficit reduction targets which are stifling growth and devastating public sectors.
I find it hard to understand why so many trade unionists continue to believe that the small benefits that ‘social’ Europe delivered in the past somehow excuse all the EU’s other draconian measures that are driving austerity and unemployment..
Anita Halpin is the Communist Party’s trade union organiser
Read the latest briefing on the TTIP EU/US trade deal