The EU must address the 'lack of democracy' from which it suffers

Gabi Zimmer says the European Commission seems more concerned with business interests than those of citizens.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

11 Sep 2015

Going into the new parliamentary year, European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group chair Gabi Zimmer insists that, "the EU's first priority must be the refugee crisis. Every single human being that dies trying to enter the EU is one victim too many of the murderous 'Fortress Europe'. We urgently need a common EU humanitarian asylum and immigration policy."

The German MEP also expects European policymakers to address "the ongoing economic and social crisis - not only in Greece. We need to replace failed austerity dictates by socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable growth programmes."

"Instead, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan once again holds the public liable for possible private losses. We should replace it with a public investment programme controlled by the European and national parliaments."


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"Finally", says Zimmer, "we must address the huge lack of democracy in the EU: former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras offered to involve the European Parliament in the review process of the latest reform contract between Greece and the European stability mechanism (ESM). This could be a small first step for parliaments in taking decision-making back from bureaucratic institutions".

On the topic of Greece, Zimmer believes "the first mistake was to bail out the big banks at the beginning of the Greek crisis."

"The EU privatised the banks' gains from high risk investments in Greek government bonds, then socialised the losses when the country was bankrupted through the European financial stability facility (EFSF) and the ESM."

"The second error was to dictate a harsh austerity programme, whilst allowing the old elites from [centre-right party] Nea Democratia and [centre-left party] Pasok to continue with their corrupt practices."

Greece is set to be a key priority for the GUE/NGL group, with Zimmer vowing to, "go on working with the Greek government to fight the ongoing blackmailing and austerity. We will do our utmost to help Greece get back on track with socially inclusive growth and democratic reform."

Other priorities for the year ahead include "further supporting diplomatic endeavours to end the war in eastern Ukraine and, together with EU and US trade unions and social movements, we will continue to campaign against the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP)."

"Instead, we will advocate for a trade policy that makes social protection, workers' rights, democratic decision-making and total transparency a priority."

Zimmer is extremely critical of the Commission' work, arguing that "the Refit and better regulation agenda aims at inscribing the particular interests of enterprises and their owners in core EU agreements, while blocking and even taking back policy for protection in the workplace, consumer safety or environmental protection."

When it comes to the UK's upcoming referendum on EU membership, Zimmer says, "I do not want an EU without the UK, nor do I want a 'two speed' EU. I want an EU that protects social and democratic rights. [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron's bid to hold down the far-right anti-EU and anti-immigration forces in Britain by giving in to their demands is a dangerous game."

"In France, Hungary, Germany and Scandinavia, right-wing populists are succeeding because people feel that the EU is in deep political crisis. And they're right: in its current shape, the EU does not protect people's social interests."

"I always advocate for democratic decisions, so I want everyone in the EU to vote for a new treaty that puts social protection, parliamentary decisions and democratic participation first at all levels."

 

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