Ireland: Joe Higgins MEP: My first week in the European Parliament

Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) MEP condemns “consensus of the Right”

The first gathering of the newly elected European Parliament in Strasbourg last week provided strong pointers as to how the European Union will be shaped over the next five years.

The opening of Parliament was preceded by a flag raising ceremony conducted by the military – a body known as Eurocorps made up of French and German troops. A right wing neo liberal politician was elected as President supported by a ‘Grand Coalition’ of the main political groups and there were many calls for the Lisbon Treaty to take effect. The new President is former Polish Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek. He has a track record of pushing privatisation of public enterprises and attacking workers’ living standards and public services.

The Grand Coalition which supported Mr Buzek with 555 votes is made up of the European People’s Party which includes Fine Gael, the Social Democrats which includes The Labour Party and the Liberal group which includes Fianna Fail. The European Green Parties also supported him. The candidate of the Left received 89 votes.

The enormous expanse of Parliament related buildings in Strasbourg have a surreal feel. The centre piece is an enormous tower circling around a courtyard. Within you will certainly get hopelessly lost in a maze of corridors if you leave the beaten track without a layout map.

This giant complex is virtually empty much of the time. However, in the second week of every month when the plenary session of Parliament takes place, like a desert suddenly stirred by the onset of the rains, it bursts into life.

On the Monday thousands of EU workers pour in from Brussels and Luxembourg joined by the 736 parliamentarians and their staff. Part of the huge bureaucracy that characterises the EU is replicated here for the few days of frenetic parliamentary business – until Thursday afternoon when a mass exodus leaves the place in silence once more.

The politics here are somewhat surreal also. Cynical, behind the scenes ‘horse trading’ between the bigger political groups see the positions of power and influence divided out between them. My attack on this drew a united chorus of criticism from Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail Euro deputies. They contended that it was different here, all about ‘consensus’.

Consensus there is alright but it is a consensus of the Right. It is predicated on the basis that the burden of the current crisis in European capitalism will be laid on the shoulders of working people, the unemployed and the poor and not at all on those of corporate Europe – the major conglomerates, including the giant weapons manufacturers, which really dictate economic policy.

There was consensus also among the dominant groups that the Lisbon Treaty should be implemented. The new President began the chorus. He was followed by the President of the EU Commission, Mr Barosso, and duly followed by the leaders of the main groups. What they did not spell out was that pushing their Treaty in this way meant walking on any semblance of an idea that the people of the Member States should be listened to.

The rejection of the Treaty by the people of Ireland last year was to be pushed aside as an inconvenience. That is because Lisbon is central to the economic and political interests which dominate the European Union. It is their formula for intensifying the neo liberal agenda, and equipping themselves with a foreign policy and a military set up that can more readily be used abroad in their interests.

Shamefully, to the forefront of the calls to force the Irish people to do it ‘right’ the second time were eleven out of the twelve MEPs elected only six weeks ago [in southern Ireland].

Proinsias De Rossa of the Labour Party and Mairead McGuinness of Fine Gael resorted to the Stalinist tactic of smearing opponents of Lisbon by trying to put those of us opposed in the same boat as the far right parties, such as The United kingdom Independence Party(UKIP) who say they are opposed also.

We loathe the far right and all they stand for. It has always been the Left which has stood out against their pernicious xenophobia and mobilised against the fascists in countries where they threatened migrant communities. To try to smear the Left because some of these groups happen to profess to oppose the Lisbon Treaty is contemptible and cynical – as inane as saying that De Rossa and McGuinness were fascists because they drink water and fascists do likewise.

The establishment political representatives from Ireland who go out to the European Parliament in search of ‘consensus’ would do much better to examine the motivation of their political allies who are pushing for this Treaty in the interests of European big business and the armaments merchants and not at all for the ordinary citizens of Europe.

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