The EU has opted against hitting Spain and Portugal with sanctions for breaking the bloc’s rules on government spending. But Spain must still bring its 4.6 per cent deficit under 3 per cent by 2018 and Portugal must achieve a 2.5 per cent deficit by the end of 2016. Portugal’s radical left is not proclaiming victory.
By Isabel Pires
After a constant dance between the Portuguese government and the European Commission on sanctions, on Wednesday it was decided that there would be no sanctions, neither on Portugal nor on Spain. It was also said that the rules could again change (eg lowering the deficit target to 2.5%).
In fact, this game never had clear rules to the extent that these are being adapted to the needs of those setting the rules of the game. When it comes to France or Germany, the rules cannot be applied, but when its Portugal or Spain, the rules have to be applied, with associated extras.
To say, as on Friday Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs declared, that to continue to play this game and follow the rules is worth it, is clearly an exaggeration. If there’s one thing this whole situation made clear is that there is nothing positive in these rules, there is nothing clear or consistent for the players of the game, there is no advantage for those who decide to follow different paths.
The discretion of the decisions made by a group without any democratic legitimacy reached a breaking point that is impossible to ignore. The good students of yesterday, after all produced bad results, even if they had taken things further* than the teachings of the troika. The goal of the masters of this game is clear: these are no longer economic rules, this is a clear political project, of austerity. And those who do not meet this austerity are punished; sanctions have never been technical but political.
In this game in which those who have power want to be in control at all costs, political sanctions have been shrouded in technicalities and came under false pretenses. This process of sanctions is a political process. At a time when the so-called European integration project is at an impasse, the political struggle is the ultimate weapon.
With the outcome of the British referendum leading the UK out of the European Union, the proliferation of opposition to the rules, the growth of far-right political forces, a humanitarian crisis to which the institutions fail to respond, preferring to give money to Turkey as a buffer against the refugees, the rebirth of the ghost terrorism, a growing feeling that the European institutions no longer understand of the European peoples; with this whole situation the glue that holds the EU together is becoming weaker.
On the other hand, the attempt to maintain the EU by force and punishment is not working too well. It is not that the European Commission will, therefore, admit it is wrong and for this reason is not applying sanctions. We are living through a period of adjustment, new to this European institution, which wants to keep power, and so wants to avoid any further setbacks or political backlash.
You cannot want to be one thing and its opposite, and that is what the Commission has tried to do. For Portugal at the moment, the process of sanctions seems to have ended, but for the Commission it has not. Attempts to penalize us by other methods will be creatively pursued over the coming months. If for now this setback in the implementation of sanctions can be considered a defeat for the Commission, the battle is still far from over.
There is still much work ahead to end the division in Europe between countries of the first rank and those of the second, so that democracy can become the cornerstone of a union between the peoples. Meanwhile austerity will surely hover over all of us, like a black cloud that refuses to disappear. Because these [EU] rules do not serve the people, but a dominant and big business elite.
Isabel Pires is MP for Left Bloc .
ALSO: What the Portuguese Communist Party said:
Predicting further ‘pressure’ and ‘blackmail’ from the EU, João Oliveira, leader of the PCP in Parliament, said:
“The PCP considers that the Government should…proceed to convene an intergovernmental summit with a view to immediate suspension and revocation of the Budgetary Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon and the institutionalization of the possibility of reversibility of treaties.”
Source: Jornal de Negocios
Background on this week’s decision: Financial Times