EU has 'neo-colonial attitude' to fundamental rights

Written by Kostas Chrysogonos on 20 March 2015 in Opinion

The impact of austerity measures has 'seriously violated' the basic protections of the welfare state, argues Kostas Chrysogonos.

The austerity measures which have been imposed over the past five years on Greece and other EU member states has resulted in deep cuts to social spending, particularly spending related to the provision of social services by the state. This has harmed the welfare state and has had negatively impacted on the range of social and economic rights that citizens enjoy.

Among those rights affected by austerity measures are labour rights, healthcare, education, adequate standards of living and social assistance. These rights are not only guaranteed by the national constitutions of the member states, but are also proclaimed in numerous European and international human rights instruments.

"Greeks are viewed as voiceless objects of the omnipotent power - in this case fiscal power"

These include: the community charter of fundamental social rights of workers, which establishes the major principles on which the European labour law model; the EU charter of fundamental rights, which is the most comprehensive and recent 'bill of rights' of the EU; the European convention on human rights, to which the EU shall accede; and the European social charter, whose spirit and principles the EU must respect.

The austerity measures imposed on Greece were designed by a 'troika' of institutions, composed by the European commission, the European central bank and the international monetary fund. These measures were incorporated in the memoranda between the Greek government and its creditors and also later at council level. These decisions should be subject to scrutiny against the above instruments, which guarantee a number of principles and fundamental rights. Civil and political rights, as well as social and economic rights have been seriously violated by austerity measures.

I have tried to highlight the lack of any scrutiny by means of several written questions addressed to the commission. In response, the Commission replied that the memoranda are not part of EU law and thus cannot be measured against the aforementioned human rights instruments. This is a misinterpretation of European primary law and of the relevant case law of the court of justice.

Worse still is the complete negation of the fundamental rights of the Greek people implied by this neo-colonial attitude. Greeks are viewed as voiceless objects of the omnipotent power ‒ in this case fiscal power ‒ of the metropolis ‒ or creditors in this instance. On the contrary, all truly pro-European political forces should accept that the necessary fiscal consolidation should take place only within the limits set by the protection of fundamental rights, which is also necessary for sustainable European integration.


About the author

Kostas Chrysogonos (GUE/NGL, EL) is a member of parliament's legal affairs committee

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