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60th Anniversary of Treaty of Rome: A Taste of Ashes

Bernard Cassen on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome

Through one of those ironies of which history is littered, the calendar imposes commemorations, even festivities, that often leave us with the bitter taste of ashes. This is so for the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing on 25 March 1957 of the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), which became the European Union (EU) in 1993. If one is obsessed by dates, there is every reason to believe that, in the future, March 2017 will be associated with the British Government’s activation of Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to trigger ‘Brexit’, the exit of the UK from the EU.

Over the decades, Europe of the Six of 1957 (Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands) had six waves of membership until it became a Europe of the twenty-eight, the most recent new member state being Croatia, which entered in July 2013. Already, at that time, it was felt that the permanent enlargement of the Union was no longer on the agenda and that the candidate countries [1] would remain forever with this status …

Brexit is the culmination of various events, but also of profound trends. Having refused to enter the EEC at the time of its establishment, the United Kingdom created in 1960 a rival organization, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Having quickly realized that the increasing economic and trade integration of the EEC might deprive it of access to a continually expanding continental market, it changed strategy and multiplied efforts to become a member. This was achieved in 1973 with Ireland and Denmark.

The objective pursued, however, remained the same: to control, but this time from within, the evolution of European construction, to obtain the maximum derogations from the common rules and thus to shape an “English” Europe; in Margaret Thatcher’s phrase, “all for the single market, but only the single market”. In this respect, the enlargement of the EU to 10 new Member States in 2003, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 was one of the great successes of British diplomacy. Taking into account the very wide disparity in the economic situation of the Member States, it reinforced the potential for dumping offered by the European treaties, for example with the posted workers directive.

Prime Minister David Cameron had good reason to be satisfied with the weight of his country in this Europe. For purely electoral reasons, he embarked on the adventure of a referendum which he did not think he could lose. On June 23, 2016, the victory of the Leave (an EU withdrawal) transformed an episode in British history into the trigger of an international chain reaction that is also a telling of the fragility of the community project that has taken shape in six decades. The former tenant of 10 Downing Street will now have time to read or re-read The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: in Goethe’s poem the magician instantly stops the flood caused by the imprudent youngster who had buckets of water carried by a broom which had itself multiplied in hundreds of clones. But in the European institutions, it is the “invisible hand” of the market that serves as a magic wand …

Bernard Cassen is Secretary General of Memoire Des Luttes, Honorary President of Attac

Source: Memoires Des Luttes

Translation by Revolting Europe


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


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