As we in the GUE/NGL group return to parliament after the summer recess, the events of the last few months are all too stark in our minds: most notably, Israel's deadly bombardment of Gaza which we condemned in the strongest possible terms. Our group has always strongly rejected any form of violence as this never solves any problems; we are convinced that the only solution is an end to the occupation. Now, as the ceasefire holds, it is imperative that the people of Gaza have secure access to humanitarian aid and medical supplies.
Israel must stop this violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by ending the Gaza blockade. We also condemn Israel's continuation of settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory. Only this week Israel has made one of the largest land grabs of Palestinian territory in the last 30 years by appropriating four square kilometres of land south of Bethlehem.
At last weekend's summit, EU leaders reiterated their intent to stick with sanctions against Russia as a way of dealing with the Ukraine crisis. GUE/NGL MEPs will continue to criticise this strategy as it hits ordinary working Russians hardest, and does nothing to solve the causes of the crisis. It is not at all an appropriate way to stop this confrontation. Nato must guarantee that it will not continue to expand up to Russia's borders, as promised by western countries in the years following the fall of the Berlin wall. We call for a strategy that seeks peaceful political engagement with Moscow.
"We need to be a global actor that focuses on solidarity and peace, and not the business interests of the global corporate elite"
As we head into the main part of the Italian presidency, I call on prime minister Matteo Renzi and new EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to change the direction of EU foreign policy. We need to be a global actor that focuses on solidarity and peace, and not the business interests of the global corporate elite. And when it comes to the ongoing negotiations on an EU-US trade deal (TTIP), unfortunately the Italian presidency has stated its intention to support these bilateral trade talks.
It would be refreshing to see a change in tactics from the Italian presidency. It should be using its position to highlight the grave dangers TTIP poses to food safety and environmental standards and the provision of public goods and services. Not to mention the shocking lack of transparency around the negotiations and the likely inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism which could see multinational companies sue governments if their laws and regulations stand in the way of their ability to make endless profits. Ending TTIP will remain the GUE/NGL group's main priority over the coming months.
Our group will also continue our calls for a radical change in EU economic rules and institutions; we simply can't settle for a so-called 'democratisation' of the troika. While the Italian presidency prioritises more growth and job creation, they seem intent on following the same failed neoliberal rules that sparked the recession and led to structural reforms that increased precarious employment, reduced social rights across Europe and raised poverty levels, particularly in periphery countries like Greece and Spain. We want to see policy that prioritises taxing financial transactions so that this money can be used to create jobs through investment in infrastructure, renewable energy, and research.
Finally, the Italian presidency should end the shocking stream of tragedies on Europe's doorstep. May we never forget those refugees who have perished off Lampedusa, and across the wider Mediterranean, in recent years. We must also remember the complicity of the EU's failed asylum policy in these deaths.