Jenny Jones and Rupert Read say the European Union is in need of radical reform to fix its serious defects, and an EU that does not undertake such reforms is not something that Greens should support. First published in GreenWorld
We write as Greens who have both stood for election to the European Parliament (Read came close to election in Eastern England in 2009 and 2014). We see clearly how the EU can be and has been a force for good in terms of keeping the peace among
its member states and in terms of its impressive role in environmental and social regulation.
But we believe that the Green Party’s love-in with the EU needs to come to an end, to be replaced by a more honest willingness to face up to its very serious defects.
A clear example of those flaws is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the EU-US deal currently being negotiated, which the Green Party is united against for the following reasons:
• TTIP enables the democratic will of the people to be struck down by big business.
• TTIP is a project of secretive lobbying.
• TTIP is about gigantic corporations being able to break open and gobble up public procurement and public services.
We argue that TTIP should not be viewed as some kind of aberration from EU standard practice. It is EU standard practice:
• There is far too little democracy in the EU: the Council of Ministers operates almost entirely in secret and (together with the commission) holds the whip hand over the parliament on most issues.
• Brussels is dominated by corporate lobbyists who outnumber NGO lobbyists by about 15 to one. EU rules would make it very difficult for, for example, the railways to be brought back into full public ownership in this country.
• The EU has been a pro-business front from the beginning, and a vehicle for organisations such as the European Round Table of Industrialists to get their way. The Lisbon Treaty and the ‘Stability and Growth Pact’ have only deepened this.
It is an illusion to think that TTIP is anything other than a natural extension of the logic of the EU. We Greens, being serious about our outright opposition
to TTIP, need to be serious also about radically reforming the EU. It’s not just about ending the insanity of moving the parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month. Anything less than
truly radical reform – such as ending
the impunity of the culture of secrecy, removing the huge power of business lobbyists, prioritising public service over private profit and one-planet ecological sanity over businesses’ endless-growth multi-planet agenda – would mean that the EU is probably, on balance, more of a hindrance than a help to Green objectives.
Moreover, systematic problems are caused by all four of the ‘four freedoms’: the freedom to move capital, products, ‘services’ and labour all over the EU.
The four freedoms constitute a bosses’ charter: they form together a key demand of exploitative international capital, a demand that should be rejected. There is no leftist case for an unreformed EU.
We are in the early stages of an EU referendum campaign. If we leave the EU reform agenda to David Cameron, we are condemning ourselves to political
irrelevance and the EU to becoming, in practice and on balance, even more of
a dogmatically anti-ecological, pro- growth, pro-big-business, undemocratic organisation than it already is.
The ‘Green Yes [to staying in the EU]’ campaign needs to be consistently constructively-critical of the EU’s pro- ‘globalisation’ agenda. We should call
for the referendum to include an option for an improved EU, along broadly green lines. We must not miss this historic opportunity to set out the kinds of reasons for a radically different approach from business-as-usual, reasons that were first brilliantly couched in Mike Woodin and Caroline Lucas’s book, Green Alternatives to Globalisation.
Let’s not insult the intelligence of
the British electorate. Let’s tell the
truth. There are tremendous structural difficulties in the way of reforming the EU to address most of the problems we’ve sketched above. One of us (Jones) is frankly sceptical that there is any chance of such reforms succeeding. The other
of us (Read) is determined to try. But we agree that an EU that does not undertake such reforms is not something that Greens should support. For the record, we both love Europe, just not the EU