By Luke Ming Flanagan
I’ve been out here full-time since the start of the year, attending GUE/NGL meetings, Committee meetings, meetings on TTIP with various groups, and of course the Plenary sessions themselves, the full European Parliament meetings, and the one thing that strikes me above all else is this – the Greece crisis apart, the overwhelming majority of the discussions revolve around how to enable business make more profit, how to cosy up to business, how to entice business to invest, how to maximise profit for business and lately even, with all the talk around the now almost mythical ‘Juncker Plan’, how to actually guarantee profit for business. Even within the Greece crisis, the talk around profit and targets and business and satisfying the markets predominated all discussion.
At the GUE/NGL meetings, always, there’s a human face, real problems presented by real people on how austerity is having its crippling effect right across the EU, pleas for help, promises from those of us in that group to do what we can. Then we head down the corridors to our various Committees – ECON, Agriculture, Fisheries, Budget etc – and it’s as though we’ve entered a parallel universe where the bottom line is the bottom dollar, or in this case, the bottom euro.
It makes me wonder – who do we represent out here? Who elected us? Is governance and politics about profit or about people?
THE HUMAN FACE OF GREECE
In the last few weeks I’ve listened to representatives of the new Greek government outline the devastating impact that the existing Memorandum of Understanding programme is having on its people; I’ve heard them illustrate in the most reasonable and logical fashion how, far from easing their problems, the existing programme is actually exacerbating those problems – in fact it has now gone to the stage where that MoU is itself the problem. I’ve heard them plead for time, plead for the money they need to tide them over for the next few months as they try to come up with workable alternatives that will ease the pressure on their people and kick-start a recovery.
And I’ve seen those pleas fall on deaf ears, the likes of Schultz, Schauble, Draghi and Dijsselbloem impervious to all pleas that even mention human suffering, instead insisting on targets and contracts and previous agreements, as though these are all chiselled in marble.
BARRIER OR PROTECTION?
I’ve been at meetings where almost all the talk from those at the top table has been on removing what they see as ‘barriers’ to trade, to profit, to the quick buck, but what we see as protections – protections for workers, protections for our environment, protections for the standards of our food and drink etc.
Yesterday in the Plenary session here, one of Ireland’s own MEPs, Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly, speaking on energy supplies, reckoned we should be taking advantage of the fracking gas explosion (that’s deliberate, by the way) in the USA and import from there.
It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Do these people give a damn about the damage to the planet – known and unknown – that’s being done by activities such as fracking, deforestation, over-fishing? Do they care of the legacy they are leaving for future generations? I don’t know – I think there are those who would frack under their mother’s graves if they thought there was a bob or two in it.
And you know why we have these very different attitudes? Because they’re on one side of those barriers, and we’re on the other. Where we talk about schools, health systems, working conditions, sustainable jobs, environmental protections, they talk of profit and margins and markets and favourable conditions for the big corporations to fatten and prosper.
THIS PROGRAMME HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY…
And they talk of programmes – they love programmes. And so we have the programmes imposed on Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, we have the Juncker programme, the Justice Programme, EIB programme for investment, dozens of EU programmes, hundreds of them even, and hundreds more branching off those.
Is that the problem, that there are too many people out here who are themselves programmed, who have been brain-washed almost from birth into venerating this new God where profit has replaced prophet, the gospel now spread by such as the four mentioned above, Schultz, Schauble, Draghi and Dijsselbloem, and their disciples now in control of law-making in the various institutions of the EU, including the Parliament itself.
So, to go back to my question, who elected us, who are we meant to represent? Is governance about people or about profit? In the EU, as far as I can see, it’s now all about profit. In Greece, Syriza are now locked in a battle to make it about people. It’s time to choose sides.