Report by Brian Denny
What Social Model?
During a private summit dinner of
European leaders in March the subject turned to the much-vaunted "European
social model", Tony Blair asked rhetorically: "What's
With this simple candid question Blair exposed decades of europhile mendacity. Defence of the so-called "European social model" has been used to sell all previous EU treaties and now the EU constitution to the labour movement.
At the summit, Blair was arguing with French president Jacques Chirac who was demanding the postponement of the highly controversial EU Directive on Services. The French leader is increasingly alarmed at the rapid growth in opposition to the EU constitution before the referendum on the subject in May.
Opposition has grown in tandem with the offending directive that aims to "deregulate" (privatise) all service activity in
Europe. And over 100,000 trade unionists were marching outside in opposition to the so-called Bolkstein directive.
Chirac's answer was to present himself as the defender of social protection and welfare standards and demand
the directive be "redrafted". He got his way as other EU leaders colluded in a
desperate attempt to influence the outcome of the French referendum on May 29.
However, a clearly perplexed Blair is fully aware that the contents of the directive are also written into the proposed EU constitution. He even recently told the House of Commons, "The European constitution gives a push for the services directive".
While leading labour movement europhiles demand support for the EU constitution to defend the so-called "European social model", in the real world Britain's last mass car manufacturer Rover has collapsed. Blair did nothing to stop it as he knows it is illegal under EU rules to give financial assistance to state companies without permission from Brussels. The leading Europhile could not go to war with Brussels just before an election, however popular it would prove, as it would scupper his drive to win a referendum on the EU constitution expected next year.
France and Germany of course totally ignore such niceties as EU competition rules and bail out home industries at will. Therefore, the EU Constitution strengthens the rules even further. Article III-168 states that "if the Commission finds that aid granted by a member state or through state resources is not compatible with the internal market" the state concerned must abolish such aid "in a period of time to be determined by the Commission".
The simple fact is that the EU constitution enshrines a particular economic system based on an extreme neo-liberal ideology. The principles of "free competition" become constitutional objectives, to be enforced by the EU Court of Justice.
As soon as Peter Mandelson was installed as EU Trade Commissioner he repeated these demands in the constitution for market liberalisation across the EU. "My belief is that the first priority should be to reinvigorate the drive for open markets," he says. This is the overriding aim of the "European project", making Europe safe for big business interests, and all talk of European social models, social partnership and a third way are so much hot air to defuse any trade union opposition that may arise.
However, the directive and the proposals for an EU Constitution have cruelly exposed these illusions once and for all.
Also see the full text of the pamphlet "Social Europe is a Con" which has sections dealing with ECJ rulings and Mode 4 - free movement of labour. This is available here in pdf format.