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Europe, Politics

The illusion of a “left” European Commission


By Bernard Cassen 

In view of the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, the socialist and social democratic parties are seeking by all means to dissociate themselves from European policies, as these policies – which they have approved – are unpopular. As a diversion and to shirk their responsibility, they intend to conduct a joint campaign across the 28 member states with one goal – that of achieving the “reorientation” of the European Union (EU) – and using one means to achieve it: a majority in the European Parliament and one of their own to replace the current President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. For this post, they chose a candidate that the French Socialists declare, without even a smile, as “the best of us”: Martin Schulz, leader of the German SPD and current President of the European Parliament.

This appears to be common sense: even if the elections to Parliament in Strasbourg are actually a juxtaposition of national elections, they lead to the formation of parliamentary groups that are not national, but political, in this case, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats  (S & D). And one factor increases the role of parliamentary representation in the appointment of the President of the Commission role: Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that, in making this choice, the heads of state or government (the European Council)  must  “take into account the elections to the European Parliament.”

Moreover, and the distinction is important, under the Treaty, the Parliament will now “elect” the President of the Commission, whereas before it had to settle with “approving” the choice of the European Council.

When we look at things more closely, we see that what appears to be a clarification of issues for voters is a mere illusion. Social democracy claims to “politicize” the Commission, which is to say that this was not the case until now, and that “Brussels” was only a “neutral” or “technical” structure composed of ” experts “concerned only with the general European interest … A significant confession, if only implicit: the libertarian content of successive European treaties, that the Commission has implemented zealously, are not ” political “. They are as natural as the change of seasons and so therefore cannot be debated. That is why, in the veritable neo-liberalising machine that is Brussels, 28 Commissioners from conservative and left parties alike get on like a house on fire. Like the SPD and the CDU / CSU in the German “grand coalition’ government, over which the three parties involved have just come to an agreement.

It is unclear how a so called Left president could change anything in a configuration in which he is would likely to be in a minority since it is governments who choose commissioners according to their own guidelines: right-wing governments – currently the most numerous in the EU – will logically choose right-wing Commissioners!

And even if – in the highly unlikely miracle – Martin Schulz is elected President of the Commission, and it has a political majority among Commissioners, it would be institutionally obliged to enforce the Treaty of Lisbon. That is to say, a roadmap prohibiting deviation from  neo- liberal dogmas. With a new EU Treaty unanimously approved, no “reorientation” of European policies is possible from within. And it is not known whether Mr. Schulz and his social-democratic friends, especially those of the French Socialist Party, are willing to reject a treaty for which they overwhelmingly voted.

Under these conditions, trying, as François Hollande did in his presidential campaign, to convince voters that the EU can be “reoriented” to become something other than what it currently is, is either distressingly naive or simply mystification.

It is surprising then to see this strategy copied by the Party of the European Left, which brings together the parties of the radical left, and whose MEPs shall meet in Group of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE / NGL). In putting forward Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Greek coalition SYRIZA, as its candidate for the presidency of the Commission, the European Left wanted to make a symbolic choice, to  impeach the Commission / ECB / IMF ‘troika’ that is destroying, among others, Greece and Portugal. Very well. But it does not seem to have considered that in so doing it follows the mould of social democracy, helping to legitimise the same false promises.

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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