Ahead of the EU in Crisis conference on 5-6 May in Brussels, Corporate Europe Observatory has invited several authors and commentators to contribute essays on some of the themes of the conference, to inspire debate and comment. In the coming weeks, these essays will be published below. The essays represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of CEO but we hope that you will find them interesting and thought-provoking. Don't forget to register for the conference if you have not already done so!
Where does resistance to austerity in Europe stand, four years into the crisis? Journalist Leigh Phillips, until recently based in Brussels, where he reported for the EUobserver and the Guardian, assesses the situation and identifies four priorities for a progressive anti-austerity movement in Europe.
The establishment of the European Monetary Union in the ’90s and the introduction of the euro a decade ago have accelerated the financialisation process in Europe. Antonio Tricarico of Italy's Campaign to Reform the World Bank calls for reflection on how to implement a strategy for excluding financial markets from certain spheres of society through the redefinition of public finance, and for reintroducing controls for movements of capital at national and regional level.
In response to the eurocrisis, most EU countries are imposing austerity policies designed to reduce public deficits and bring down state debts by cutting down public spending on health care, education, social services, nature preservation, development aid and more. Jan Willem Goudriaan, deputy secretary general of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), tells the story of how the EU sought to brush away a clear no of the Italian people against water privatisation but how this failed as a result of strong campaigning by the broad and vibrant Italian Water Movement.
Back in 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, many observers expected a pause in the European integration process after almost a decade of hard bargaining over the revision of the Union’s contractual foundations. But since the start of the eurozone crisis, Europe has come up with more and more mechanisms designed to impose drastic and lasting restrictions on the power of national governments to pursue their own budgetary and social policies. The reconstruction of the eurozone and the EU is in full swing. Political economist and ATTAC Germany council member Alexis Passadakis analyses these developments and identifies options for resistance.
The eurocrisis and the crisis of neoliberal Europe: dilemmas for Europe’s transnational corporate elite
As the recent worries about Spain becoming ‘the next Greece’ show, the so-called eurocrisis is far from over. While the European Central Bank had bought time by pumping more than one trillion euros into Europe’s banks, none of the underlying structural problems have been solved. In fact no serious attempt has been made to address the deeper causes of the crisis. Political scientist Bastiaan van Apeldoorn argues that the eurocrisis expresses the failure of a neoliberal European project driven by a transnational corporate elite.
In 1997, at the time of the EU Counter Summit from Below, four friends in Amsterdam set up Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and published the report Europe, Inc.: Dangerous Liaisons between EU Institutions and Industry. This first CEO report uncovered the powerful role of lobby groups such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), in promoting and shaping an EU-wide free trade area (the single market), a single currency (the euro), and numerous other major EU projects and policies at the time. The report warned that the far-reaching influence of corporate lobbies over EU decision-making came at the expense of democracy and of social and environmental concerns. Fifteen years later, CEO co-founder Olivier Hoedeman takes stock.
The financial and economic crisis has revealed how entrenched the power of banks is in the European Union. In this EU in Crisis essay, Corporate Europe Observatory’s Kenneth Haar describes the wave of financial regulation that was set in motion with the crisis of 2008. By now most of this regulation has been passed, and although details are still missing, there’s plenty of evidence to show that the banks are being let off the hook. Looking back, banking lobbyists can conclude that decision makers have practically fallen over themselves to serve the banking industry’s interests. The dream of a European Union that would curb the power of finance has become a joke, and instead we’ve seen a bankers’ Europe emerge that may make even Wall Street envious.
In this second essay in our EU in crisis series, Lina Filopoulou, who is active in the Athens Neighborhood Assembly, describes the development of the Greek resistance against the austerity programmes imposed on Greece as a condition for receiving ECB-IMF-EU loans. She also looks at the future potential of these movements.
The Spanish economist and activist Miren Etxezarreta will be one of the speakers at CEO’s EU in Crisis conference on 5-6th May 2012. Miren has commented extensively on the causes of the crisis – and in particular on the situation in Spain. The article below comes from a longer essay, Boom and (deep) crisis in the Spanish economy: the role of the EU in its evolution, by Miren Etxezarreta, Francisco Navarro, Ramón Ribera and Victòria Soldevila, who are all members of the Seminario de Economía Crítica TAIFA. The summary text published here was prepared by Corporate Europe Observatory with permission from Miren. Full details, including graphs and tables, are available in the original.