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Is a European Federation the solution to Europe's woes? Can the European Left play a more decisive role in European politics?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2018-05-09 06:16:24
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There has been a lot of debate on how to solve the economic crisis that affected all the European nations for the past decade. 

Since then, there have been many calls from many European politicians, that a closer political union or even a European Federation could offer the solution.

I have arranged an interview with Paul Murphy, a former Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency, to discuss his thoughts on the issue. Paul represented the Socialist Party of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL). 

paul000001_400He believes that something has to be done on a European level, as the crisis is a European wide phenomenon. “Though in reality, it is a strategy pursued by the EU Commission,” Paul clarifies. I do not think it will be a question of the Commission changing its mind. Because it represents certain dominant interests, like those of the bondholders and the banks”. “In a sense, they do not really care if the European economy is destroyed as long as they get the maximum return. They do not have a long-term vision for Europe’s economy at the moment,” Paul continues.

“I do not accept this notion of the people of the periphery against the people in the center, but there is a question of the establishment within the center, against people everywhere,” Paul clarifies, in regard to the growing division between Northern and Southern countries. Paul mentions as an example of what needs to be done, one of the most positive events that took place last November. There was a general strike, to some degree, called in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta and in Italy, more or less successful in different countries. 

“Currently I do think that a closer political integration or a federation would solve Europe’s woes,” Paul says. He believes that this is the strategy of the most far-thinking elements of the capitalist class in Europe and there is logic to it. In a sense that if Europe becomes more like one country, our problems will disappear. At the moment these problems are about the monetary union. But if the political union is going to be built on the basis they want, austerity will be at the core of it and be written into its rules. “That is what the European establishment wants and what the fiscal treaty is all about,” he explains.

“What the establishment wants is the fundamental diminution of people’s democratic rights. They are using the crisis to create a Europe that is even more removed from ordinary people across Europe, where neoliberal rules define what the EU is,” Paul states. Part of their solution is about removing power from people, in putting pressure on their governments to oppose policies.

“Ultimately I am in favor of a European Union, but on a fundamentally different basis. The road to a democratic socialist Europe, does not lie in further integration and political union from the current EU, but from a different kind of union,” Paul argues.“Because the whole thing is built completely undemocratically and ripe with an economic agenda are at the very center of what the EU is today,” he adds.

Furthermore, Paul thinks that within or without the EU, if our governments continue with the austerity policies it is going to lead to a disaster anyway. “The main thing I would say to do is to break with austerity policies. Pursue socialist policies and refuse to be blackmailed about the question of euro because that is going to happen”. 

The European establishment will say that if we chose not to pay the bondholders, we will be kicked out of the euro. “If the price of defending public services is to be kicked out of the euro then we should take it, because it is better”, he explains. Moreover, he emphasizes that “being kicked out of the euro does not have to be a disaster. It could be, if it is not combined with policies of major investment plans; nationalization of the banks and capital control for example. There are a number of social policies that have to be implemented together with the exit from the euro to prevent a disaster”.

He believes that we also need more coordination among the Left parties in Europe to achieve a fairer continent. “It is not an easy thing to do, because of the different traditions people are coming from. The best thing we can do right now is to really try and create common struggles around austerity and privatizations,” Paul claims.

Ultimately, we could create a fundamentally different kind of Europe. “This Europe, as in the European Union and the institutions that we have, can come under pressure and give more concessions with struggle from below,” he explains. “If we had genuinely left governments in a number of countries in Europe, then we could have a majority in the European Council, the Commission and then we could shift things leftward. I do not think that this is going to happen and I do not think that this European Union can be transformed into a real vehicle for socialist change,” Paul says.

Because if a series of governments coming from Greece, for example, implement left-wing policies, then those policies are against the law of the European Union. “That is the reality”.If governments try to meet the expectations of the people, then they would have to refuse to pay at least a large portion of the debt. The European establishment is not going to accept that and then these governments would lose their vote in the European Council, because it would be in defiance of many other of things.

“There is sort of a Left party in Europe, the so-called European Left Party, but I think it needs to be broader in a sense. Its main political line comes from a certain political tradition. In the Left, we have many differences towards the nature of the EU”.

“We need to create something with a different political complexion so that evoke forces coming from different political traditions. It is useful to have GUE/NGL and work within the European Parliament, but actions must take place outside the Parliament as well,” Paul suggests.

“Neo-liberalism is at the heart of the European Union project now and I do not think it is possible to break the rules and remain inside. What is most likely to happen if you break the rules, is that you will be forced out of the euro and perhaps out of the EU,” he explains.

But in doing that you will also inspire people in other countries to do the same and then, we could have a basis for a new federation of countries coming together on a fundamentally different basis. “Like trade relations based on solidarity, mutual assistance and perhaps having a new common currency or common exchange rate,” Paul believes.

European unification has to be done anew, fresh starting over again from below. It won’t happen overnight. A lot of struggle would be required with the institutions of the old EU,” he concludes.


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