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Democrat November-December 2011 (Number 126)

Cameron backs Berlin

Report by Brian Denny

At a meeting in Berlin in early November, Tory leader David Cameron agreed to German demands for a revision of the Lisbon Treaty which will impose strict new neo-liberal fiscal rules for the Eurozone.

In return for bringing full political union a step closer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw the Tories the bone of a revision of the EU's Working Time Directive in return.

The tentative deal is designed to allow the prime minister to sell the idea of further EU centralisation to anti-trade union Tories on the grounds that he will be repatriating powers to Britain.

It also sets up a fake debate between pro-EU elements in both the labour movement and the Tories around the Working Time Directive while preserving the status-quo of "ever closer union" within the EU.

Germany is demanding what it describes as a "narrow" revision of the Lisbon Treaty to give powerful member states a 'legal' basis for controlling national budgets of member states and imposing tougher euro zone debt rules.

Fiddling whilst Rome Burns These will only apply to the 17 members of the eurozone, but will have to be agreed by all 27 EU members, handing Britain a veto.

Berlin wants the institutions of the EU - the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - to act as judge, jury and executioner of any eurozone members that break the fiscal rules. At the moment, member states are referred to the European Council, which rarely takes tough action as it is more politically difficult to do so.

Tory UK Chancellor George Osborne has led calls for some form of fiscal union within the euro to 'resolve' the eurozone's debt crisis. He admitted on BBC radio that there was a "remorseless logic" which dictates that within a single currency you must end up having a single budget policy. "You can't have one without the other," he said.

Tory grandee Michael Heseltine joined the debate by claiming that France and Germany would find a way to push fiscal union forwards and Britain should join the ailing euro.

Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown went further by claiming that if Britain had joined the euro from the start the Thatcherite Growth and Stability Pact would have forced austerity measures and spending cuts on to British citizens sooner.

Former TUC general secretary Lord Monks backed the pro-euro drive and the economically illiterate journalist Will Hutton claimed that Britain should be "banging on Europe's door" to get inside the euro. Meanwhile on planet Earth the escalating Eurozone crisis reveals the most powerful member states protecting their debt-laden banks by demanding vicious austerity measures in the eurozone states starting with Ireland, Greece and Portugal and spreading rapidly across the entire EU.

The illusory concept of 'Social Europe' launched 25 years ago to sell 'Europe' to the unions has served its purpose and is disappearing as fast as it appeared. Attacks on jobs, workers' rights and the welfare state are escalating across Europe driven by corporate-backed EU institutions; the Commission, the ECB, the EFSF and - the latest incarnation - the European Stability Mechanism.  Amorphous claims of a 'Social Europe' are being rapidly replaced by a distinctly real 'anti-Social Europe' characterised less by social partnership than by social dumping as EU rules and ECJ judgements drive a race to the bottom in terms of jobs, wages and conditions. 

   As even the pro-EU European TUC general secretary Bernadette Segol admitted in June: "cuts in salaries, cuts in public services and weakening collective bargaining rights are all on the agenda".

   The Working Time Directive will do nothing to stop this corporate agenda and claims otherwise are wearing very thin, a case of fiddling while Rome burns.