European Elections

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

With the formation of the new French government, we are already fully engaged in the campaign for the European elections. They arouse generally only scant interest. This is regrettable, and it would be particularly damaging if this were the case in the coming instance. The stakes in these elections are considerable. They will determine electoral choices, which will, no doubt, be difficult and delicate. We must remember here that these elections concern in reality the European Union and not Europe itself. One can well feel culturally and historically European and reject the institution which has appropriated the name of Europe but which is far from being commensurate with it.

The European Union adrift

At present, even the most fervent defenders of the European Union admit that it has gone adrift and that it serves ever more as a cover for the sole interests of Germany [1]. The pursuit of politics of austerity, explicitely implemented in order to “save the euro” without imposing too high a cost upon Germany, stresses this fact. These politics are presently leading the countries of Southern Europe into bankruptcy and destitution. But, generally speaking, the EU is also suffering from multiple defects which have become more and more obvious with time. It is politically obese, it is too open and knows no other line in industrial policies besides the famous « free and undistorted competition, » of which any halfway honest economist must recognize that it presents a contradiction in terms. It does not insure economical security to the member countries, nor even political security, having been high-jacked by interests which are now pushing for confrontation with Russia, as could be seen at the occasion of the Ukrainian crisis. At this occasion, the leaders of the EU, which pride themselves on respecting human rights, have not hesitated to grant their support to fascist-type groups such as « Pravy Sektory » or SVOBODA. Let us also be reminded that this same EU has been perfectly incapable of sparing us the financial crisis of 2007-2008, despite all the discourses about « the Europe that protects.”  This policy is to be continued in the coming signing of the « Transatlantic Treaty, » which establishes the conditions of a generalized free-exchange with the United States and which, in fact, imposes that our own social and sanitary norms be aligned onto those of the United States. So that one can no longer distinguish what may justify maintaining a “European Union” in the face of this new abdication to Washington.

The European Union can moreover be qualified as a criminal organization because of the policies which are being implemented by the so-called « Troïka » in Greece and in other countries. Granted, it is not acting alone in this matter. The “Troïka » being made up of the ECB, the European Commission and the IMF. But one must acknowledge that the IMF has consistently opposed itself to the policies implemented by the « Troïka, » because it could foresee and measure their consequences. The responsibility for the immense hardships of these policies, which have translated into a sharp increase in mortality in Greece, and for a few months now in Portugal – which is why we use the qualifier of criminal – are the sole and unique responsibility of the Commission and of the ECB. The EU also carries the responsibility of having brought a neo-Nazi movement, Golden Dawn, into the Greek Parliament. This too will have to be sanctioned in these elections.

The inanity of the discourse of « let’s change Europe»

In such a context, evidently, nobody will defend the EU « such as it is » and the discourses on the necessity to « change Europe » are going to multiply. But how real can they be?

The European Union functions with too many members for interesting projects to be carried through. It is a fact that an alliance is always slower and weaker than a single country. Moreover, the liberal nature of the European Union is not only inscribed in the European project from the beginning, but it corresponds to the logical incline of negotiations. When a compromise is being thought, it is always easier to find a position of non-intervention, be it in the economic or the social domain. Any positive act generates endless haggling which, in turn, generates new contentiousness. Besides the weight of liberal ideology, the weight of the particular interests of the large companies, which are well represented in Brussels, one must know that in a logic of negotiation, the « focal point » [2] of the latter is most often found in the most « liberal » measure.

The European Union is not an institution outside of a context. It moves in a universe in which, be it out of their personal interest or of ideology, the civil servants which compose it and who, to a large extend, decide over the order of the day of the reunions, are fully acquired to the most liberal ideology. We must not forget that these people live on very comfortable salaries (which they never thought of decreasing in solidarity with the peoples which they are oppressing). Claiming to change the European Union is tantamount to pretend to establish a different context, and implies a coordinated will from a majority of countries. It is quite evident that, because of the asynchrony of the political rhythms in the major countries, this is at present completely impossible.

One will then object that this is a consequence of the intergovernmental nature of the EU and that for this reason one must move in the direction of a more federal Europe. But such a reasoning rests on false bases. First of all, there is no European people, be it because of political representations which are too divergent or because of the weight of histories which are too deeply rooted. Only the solution of inter-governmentality is possible if one wants to preserve a minimum of democracy. Moreover, the federal solution would presently demand that one transfer massively from the income of the richest (the Germans, to speak plainly [3]) in order to feed this “federal budget” which some are calling with their wishes. The federalisation of Europe is a political as well as an economic nonsense.

Finally, let’s have a look at who is pretending to “change Europe.” This discourse will be held by the UMP as well as by the PS for the next elections.  Yet, for twenty years, neither of these parties has displayed the slightest will in this direction. The only way to really “change Europe” would be to provoke a grave crisis by blocking the decision process, either by France acting alone or together with other countries, until we obtain satisfaction, at least in part. This is what General De Gaulle did in the 1960s, with his « empty chair » policy. Yet, neither the UMP nor the PS advocate such a policy, which throws a radical doubt over their true will to “change Europe.” The same can be said about the centrist party UDI, the socialist dissidents of “Nouvelle Donne” or the ecologists of EELV. Let’s add that these parties are weakly structured, and are a prey to the blows of personal ambitions and ego conflicts. One would have to be mad to think that a possibility of change can come out of them.

In reality, the discourse about “changing Europe” turns out to be, on purpose or as a consequence of the means being proposed, a mystifying enterprise. One changes nothing, but one pretends to want change in order to legitimate positions which will change nothing in fact. It’s not even, as in Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, « to change everything so that nothing will change ». In fact, we must not “change Europe,” but change for another Europe.  And for this, one must begin by destroying that which in the EU makes any movement impossible.

Two critical points

The pressure can be felt strongly, under such conditions, to refuse these elections. Such is the position of some, among them Jacques Nikonoff and the M’PEP. It’s an honourable position, but a mistaken one. In an election, except if one is able to prevent it materially from happening, or if one can obtain an abstention rate of over 90 per cent, the absent are always in the wrong. One must therefore define what will motivate the vote and what list might benefit from it, knowing that a priori neither the UMP, nor the UDI, nor the PS nor EELV can be among them. These elections will in reality be made on two points.

The first point is the notorious « Treaty of Free Transatlantic Trade.» This treaty is nefarious  on many points, be it because it takes away from the states the competence over essential matters such as food sovereignty or the traceability of medicines (touching upon the two key-points of food and health), or because it constitutes a barely disguised abandonment of all French and European norms. This treaty, as Michel Sapin confirmed in a declaration of April 2nd, 2014, will not be submitted to a referendum. It must therefore be nipped in the bud, and this can only be done through the European elections.

The second point is, of course, the Euro and the policies of Euro-austerity which it brings with it. We have for many months developed all the problems, short-term as well as structural, which the Euro is causing [4]. Since 2012, many are the economists as well as the politics have come to agree with these conclusions [5]. The debate is at present general, and developing from Italy to Portugal, including in Germany [6]. It must be said again and again, the only way to get out of the vicious circle of austerity and debt, is to dissolve the Euro. The Parti de Gauche has significantly inflected its position in favor of an exit from the Euro last February, on the basis of this argument.

Therefore, and considering the nature of the voting procedure, it will be necessary to support and to vote for, according to one’s personal political preferences, the lists which will pronounce themselves without ambiguity against these two points. Only a clear and sharp defeat of the Europeist lists (UMP, UDI, PS, « Nouvelle Donne » and EELV) can allow the political clarification which is needed, be it in France or in Europe. We must refuse to send to the European Parliament people who will only prolong policies which have lasted too long already.


[1]  See Delaume C., Europe, les États désunis, Les Liens qui Libèrent, Paris, 2014 et Lordon F., La Malfaçon, Les Liens qui Libèrent, Paris, 2014.

[2] Schelling T.C., The Strategy of Conflict, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), 1960.

[3] Artus P., « La solidarité avec les autres pays de la zone euro est-elle incompatible avec la stratégie fondamentale de l’Allemagne : rester compétitive au niveau mondial ? La réponse est oui », NATIXIS, Flash-Économie, n°508, 17 juillet 2012Sapir J., « Le coût du fédéralisme dans la zone Euro », in RussEurope, 10 novembre 2012, http://russeurope.hypotheses.org/453

[4] Sapir J., Faut-il Sortir de l’Euro ? Le Seuil, Paris, 2012.

[5] Besides many French university professors such as Jean-Jacques Rosa, Gérard Laffay, Jean-Pierre Vesperini,  we have Italians represented by Alberto Bagnai, Claudio Borghi Aquilini, Giuseppe di Taranto and Antonio Rinaldi (to stay with the professors), Germans such as Hans-Olaf Henkel and Alfred Steinherr, Spaniards such as Juan Francisco Martín Seco and Antoni Soy, Brits such as Brigitte Granville, Peter Oppenheimer and Christopher Pissarides of the London School of Economics, a former partisan of the Euro, in short, as Victor Hugo would have said « I am leaving out some, and some of the best ». In France Lordon F., La Malfaçon, op.cit. is the first to have publicly taken position, but one will also notice L. Faibis and O. Passet, « L’euro pour tous et chacun pour soi : le nouveau débat interdit »,  Les Échos, 23 décembre 2013, http://m.lesechos.fr/idees-et-debats/le-point-de-vue-de/l-euro-pour-tous-et-chacun-pour-soi-le-nouveau-debat-interdit-0203193619902.htm

[6] With the creation of an « anti-Euro » party, AfD, but also with the positions taken by O. Lafontaine.

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s’est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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