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Defence, debt, and discipline: no seasonal cheer from EU leaders at summit

Failed neoliberal ideology is still dominating European summits with member states and EU institutions pushing the same old mantra of austerity and markets – claims Gabi Zimmer MEP

The latest European Council meeting saw heads of state and government seek to expand the European Union’s military capacities and enforce yet more fiscal discipline upon member states. While one could be forgiven for thinking that EU leaders should have been talking about the real solutions the continent needs like better social protection, better access to social services and decent work through investment in public services, infrastructure and education – in fact the agenda was packed with discussion of investing yet more money in armaments and how to best sell the idea of more austerity.

Citizens are right to feel perplexed as to why the interests of arms lobbyists and bondholders are put before their own. This does not seem to me like an agenda fit for a supranational project that is supposedly serious about peace and solidarity. Last month the European Parliament granted the Sakharov Prize to a young girl, who has publicly criticised the use of drones. And, as such, we hope that a majority of MEPs will listen to Malala Yousafzai and criticise the council’s want to build military drones using money from the Horizon 2020 research fund.

European leaders seek to deepen the Common Security and Defence Policy so as to develop the union’s military capabilities but having our history in mind, we must build a Europe based on peace and not prop up an industry whose interests are tied to bloodshed and war. Since the onset of the crisis, a neoliberal consensus has been continually pushed through at European summits by member states. In particular by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her followers, who try to impose Germany´s ‘agenda policies’ of poverty on the EU.

The member state governments then have a tendency to blame the union and claim they are ‘in thrall to Brussels’. But the reality is that if EU leaders were serious about building a Europe of peace, dignity and sustainable growth for people they could strive to reverse the legislation that is already in place – such as the six-pack, two-pack and the fiscal compact.

Instead they seek to build on this through a new ‘competitiveness pact’ and put in place more binding agreements, at special request by Merkel, that offer financial support tied to set neoliberal conditions. This summit saw talks of new economic policy coordination plans to set up ‘voluntary’ bilateral contractual arrangements between member states – both in and out the eurozone – and the European Commission, and council, which offer financial support in return for cuts to social protection schemes and the public sector, for example. Fortunately, many governments are opposed to the German plans. A decision was postponed to October 2014 during the Brussels summit.

These bilateral contracts mean more austerity measures so that member states can keep paying back illegitimate public debt to bondholders and creditors. This is exactly what we have seen in Ireland. As Ireland exits the Troika programme, it is being held up as the ‘star pupil of Europe’; the example that austerity works. But this is a dangerous manipulation of the reality, which has sadly been swallowed by mainstream media.

While wages have been continually lowered and public services destroyed, those whose interests are tied up in Ireland’s sovereign debt have collectively been repaid billions. If defence, debt, and discipline are the council’s Christmas gifts to us – in return we will offer them unrelenting resistance to their neoliberal ideology as we head in to 2014.

Gabi Zimmer MEP is president of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament

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