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France, Germany, Politics

Why Hollande’s plan for more Europe is bad

French President Francois Hollande wants us to believe that further European integration would fix the crisis. This is a bad strategy, for there’s no social dimension to Europe, just neo-liberalism. Eric and Guillaume Etievant Coquerel of the Left Party say France must stand up to Germany to change the future direction of the Old Continent.

Francois Hollande has revived the old idea of ​​an economic government of the euro area, spearheading political union. This government “would meet every month around a real president appointed for a long period” The strategy of the president is clear: while the French people suffer from his neoliberal policies, he tries to compensate by assigning to more European integration the role of miracle cure. This process is not new. During the 1980s, Jacques Delors explained that Europe had to become political, in order to then become social. The same process occurred during the debates on the Maastricht Treaty: a single currency would accelerate the construction of a political Europe, which would then, finally, become social.

The whole history of European integration demonstrates the ineffectiveness of this method. The social objective is in a state of nothingness, while European integration progresses at the growing expense of popular sovereignty and for the benefit of the financial system and the markets. The failure of the social democratic strategy is clear. This strategy can be summarized as follows: accelerating the construction of the container and then establish a relationship of forces able to change the content. We see the result: it is social democracy that has changed, poisoned by neo-liberalism, and now interchangeable with the parties of the European right.

Hollande continues this apparently schizophrenic strategy of accumulating neo-liberal reforms while claiming to build a social Europe. And he is well acquainted with neo-liberal reforms. It is in fact the only policy area in which he is effective. He even proudly affirms his superiority over the Right in terms of competitiveness, the reduction of public spending and the reform of the labour market. If the mobilisation and political balance of power on the Left had not prevented it, Francois Hollande would be seeking to apply in year 2 of his Presidency the neoliberal policies that have already plunged the country into recession by the end of his first year at the Elysee.

So what remains of his social aspiration depends entirely on Europe. This is probably the worst aspect of his plan, because Angela Merkel will no doubt jump at the opportunity to accelerate political union and put in place a eurozone President. This would bring, in the wake of Maastricht, a new disaster. The principle is in fact the same: starting from a just demand – an international currency strong enough to offset the dollar and thus US power – France accepted  German terms for the single currency. This was to create an overvalued euro, too strong for the economies of most other European countries, and without the social and fiscal harmonisation to limit its effects. The system is, furthermore, locked in by the guardian of the monetarist temple: the European Central Bank, independent of political power, but not the financial system.

The results have been tragic: the European economies unable to cope with the crisis of 2008 have been plunged into recession and financial instability. The dominance of the United States remains unchanged. And one more step is to be taken in this direction with the transatlantic market. It will soon be in place, and establish the US rule of law, after a process of fifteen years of obscure negotiations between the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

If Germany agrees to strengthen political governance in Europe, we will face an increased transfer of sovereignty, concentrating more power in Brussels and Frankfurt at the service of neo-liberal orthodoxy. Merkel offers, for example, plans to elect the President of the European Commission by universal suffrage, who would enjoy an incomparable power without, however, actually having to be accountable to 560 million European voters and national parliaments, condemned to a folkloric role.

This Orwellian vision of democracy will not lead to an upwards harmonisation in standards. Just to hear a few seconds of any ectoplasmic neo-liberal speech by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Merkel herself, is enough to be convinced of this.

If Hollande really wanted that tide that lifts all boats, he would make radically different choices. To transform the construction of Europe, he must first be convinced of the need for it to be founded on the common interest. And that Europe is not an end in itself, but a means to pursue human progress. Once this axiom is asserted, the fear of the crisis is swept away, and the brutal solutions to the crisis too.

Left Party Website

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


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