8 May 2008 Edition
This news feature is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)
‘In the spirit of the Spring of Nations, reject Lisbon’
Gerry Adams addresses National Forum on Europe
By Eoin Ó Broin
GERRY ADAMS told the National Forum on Europe, meeting in Dublin last week, that the Lisbon Treaty is “a bad deal for Ireland, the EU and the developing world”. The West Belfast MP also called on the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to explain to voters why they are willing to give away key vetoes on issues like international trade.
The meeting, which took place in the Royal Hospital Kilmanham, was the last in the Irish party leaders’ debates at the forum. Gerry Adams used the occasion to call for the rejection of the treaty in the referendum “to secure a better deal for Ireland and our European neighbours”.
He also said that it is disappointing that “despite the fact that the Lisbon Treaty will affect all of us on this island, those of us who live in the North are being denied the right to a referendum”.
In a wide-ranging speech, Adams addressed issues of neutrality, militarisation, social and economic policy, and the proposed changes to the EU institutions. Speaking on the issue of democracy, he said:
“On balance, when one weighs up the increased centralisation of powers, the self-amending articles, the loss of influence of smaller member states and the weak measures offered to member state parliaments and citizens, there is no doubt that the Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal both for Irish and EU democracy and, if ratified, will deepen the existing democratic deficit.”
Turning to agriculture, Gerry Adams said:
“In recent weeks we have seen a significant level of concern from within our farming community about the current round of World Trade Organisation trade talks. Last week, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, addressing this very forum, urged the Irish Government to use its veto at the council if the outcome of the WTO trade talks is bad for Irish farming. We agree with Fine Gael on that. The Irish Government should use its veto but the question is why does Fine Gael, why does the Government, want to give up this veto? If the Lisbon Treaty is passed, that veto will be gone. What will we do then in future rounds of WTO talks? This treaty, like the Mandelson proposals, is clearly not in the interest of Irish farmers. They are going to do with the farming industry exactly what they have done with the fishing industry if we let them.”
He also warned of the impact of the Treaty on public services:
“The Lisbon Treaty hands powers to the European Commission to complete the internal market in services as envisaged under the widely-opposed Services Directive, accelerating the race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions. Public services, defined as Services of General Economic Interests, will be subject under Article 16 to new “economic and financial conditions”, meaning that services like health care and education would be subject to the rules of competition”.
“Indeed, in their recent written submission to the National Forum on Europe, IBEC (the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation) argued that the Lisbon Treaty ‘creates the legal basis for the liberalisation of services of general economic interest [including] health, education, transport, energy and the environment’. This will inevitably result in further privatisation and in turn greater levels of inequality.”
A lively debate followed during which members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party challenged Adams’s interpretation of the treaty. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation adopted similar positions to the Government and Opposition parties on issues such as tax harmonisation and workers’ rights.
In conclusion, Gerry Adams reminded the Forum:
“160 years ago, revolution swept across the continent of Europe as ordinary people demanded their right to political liberty, social and economic equality and national solidarity. 1848 was known for decades as ‘The Spring of Nations’ and brought the ideas of the French Revolution into almost every country on the continent. Ten years later, James Stephens founded the Fenians and mobilised the marginalised and dispossessed of this country to the cause of Irish independence and social and economic equality. Today, 150 years on, Irish republicans continue to be part of that European-wide movement for a more democratic and more equal world. In the spirit of the French Revolution and the Spring of Nations, Sinn Féin is calling on the citizens of this state to reject the Lisbon Treaty, to reclaim the future of Europe and in doing so secure a better deal for Ireland and our European neighbours.”
Homelessness declaration adopted by EU Parliament
AT the initiative of Mary Lou McDonald MEP, the European Parliament has adopted a written declaration calling for action to end street homelessness by 2015.
The declaration says that “access to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and access to shelter is often the first step towards adequate and sustainable housing solutions for people experiencing extreme poverty and exclusion”.
At a press conference in Strasbourg, Mary Lou explained that other provisions of the declaration such as winter emergency plans are close to her heart. She pledged to continue her efforts on the issue and work “to ensure implementation of the undertaking”.
French Liberal MEP Jean Marie Beaupuy called on national institutions across Europe to take action, saying: “To solve this problem by 2015, we cannot start in 2014.”
British Labour Party and London MEP Claude Moraes said: “What we have asked for is sustainable but we must push member states.”
Polish Christian Democrat MEP Jacek Protasiewicz pointed out: “It is important to show that this problem is being addressed on a European level.”
A written declaration is a text of up to 200 words submitted by a group of up to five MEPs to be signed by their colleagues. If the declaration is signed by more than half of all MEPs, it becomes the policy of the European Parliament. Support for written declarations is regularly sought but they rarely achieve the majority of MEP signatures required to enable them to become the official policy of the European Parliament.
Workers’ rights in the EU
ON THE EVE of May Day, Sinn Féin held a briefing for trade unionist in Dublin focusing on recent and upcoming EU developments affecting workers’ rights. Primarily the focus was on the Lisbon Treaty and recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgements.
Both Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin Workers’ Rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD addressed the meeting.
The main speaker was Finn Sorensen, vice-president of the largest union in Denmark, the United Federation of Danish Workers.
The meeting was attended by trade union organisers and policy researchers as well as a number of Sinn Féin activists active in the trade union movement.
Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald gave an overview of the work of the EU Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, of which she is a member. She also outlined a number of the key issues in terms of workers rights that are due to be discussed in the EU in the time ahead. She spoke of concerns regarding the Green Paper on ‘Modernising Labour Law ‘ and of proposals on ‘flexicurity’ which call for an end to “overtly protective terms and conditions” in workers’ contracts on the basis that “stringent employment protection tends to reduce the dynamism of the labour market”.
McDonald gave an update on recent issues discussed by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and an outline of what is due to come before the committee in the coming months, including a report on the “Implementation of the posting of workers’ directive following the judgements of the Court of Justice.”
Finn Sorenson, who had travelled to Dublin specially to speak at the event, gave a detailed analysis of the implications of the judgements from the ECJ on the Viking-Line, the Laval and the Rüffert cases, which he described as “a great challenge to the trade union movement in the EU”.
Sorensen, regretting that there will be no referendum in Denmark, urged a ‘No’ vote in the Lisbon referendum in Ireland, saying that it would be “convenient for our struggle for democracy and union rights if the ratification process would be delayed due to an Irish ‘No’”.
Sorenson’s contribution was followed by a lively discussion on the impact of the Laval judgement, Lisbon and the shortcomings of domestic legislation in this state with respect to the protection of workers’ rights.
Arthur Morgan brought the meeting to a close, summarising the primary reasons why Sinn Féin is urging workers and trade unionists to vote ‘No’ in the Lisbon referendum.
De Brún brings EU experience to West Belfast cultural economy event
MEP Bairbre de Brún brought her experience in Europe to a major conference on the cultural economy in West Belfast this week. The conference, ‘Ceantar agus Teanga’ (‘Locality and Language’), examined the link between urban regeneration and language.
The MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development, addressed the conference on the theme of “the importance of communities in exploiting entrepreneurial opportunities”.
De Brún spoke of how the EU is focussing more and more on cities as the centres of growth in Europe and as the main targets of EU programmes. Praising West Belfast, de Brún spoke of a past “characterised by poor provision of services such as transport, major problems with the built environment, a lack of investment, a low level of successful entrepreneurships and a low level of employment, allied for many years to a problem of safety and personal security for those travelling outside the area to seek employment”. But she noted that West Belfast had always had a lot going for it – “most important of all, a very vibrant community”.
De Brún spoke of the experiences of cultural growth in Catalonia and the Basque Country and called upon the Gaeltacht Quarter to try to develop ties with other cities where the cultural economy is thriving.
MEPs vote to suppress details of financial abuses
BY BRIAN CARTY
DISCUSSIONS on the EU budget are guaranteed to produce a yawn but 396 MEPs stayed awake long enough to vote to keep abuses of MEPs’ allowances secret.
The MEPs have voted not to publish a report of the internal auditors of the EU Parliament which outlines abuses of MEPs’ allowances.
The contents of the internal report are so sensitive that it is kept in a locked room and can only be viewed by selected MEPs (who are not allowed to take notes).
A proposal from GUE/NGL demanding “that the internal auditor’s report to be immediately made available to all members of parliament and to the public” was rejected with 267 votes in favour, 396 against, and 17 abstensions.
Dutch transparency campaigner and member of the Green Group in the European Parliament Paul van Buitenen is one of those MEPs who has seen the report. While refusing to name names he has outlined some of the abuses of parliamentary allowances, including “kickback payments, fake places of residence, irregular pension benefits, faking of signatures, abuses of visitors’ group reimbursements and funding of campaign activities”.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael MEPs, along with Proinsias de Rossa of the Labour Party were among those who voted against publishing the report.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are all campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Community submits Petition on Coleraine super-dumps issue to MEPs
COLERAINE Councillor Billy Leonard has officially sent a Petition to the European Parliament asking that they take the “strongest appropriate action” on the possibility of four dump sites in and around the Ringsend area outside Coleraine, County Derry.
A preferred ‘super-dump’ serving seven north-western councils will be in addition to a landfill site that is due to re-open within months, a planning application has been lodged for a third site and a fourth site could be earmarked for a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plant. All are within a few square miles of each other.
Local concerns have been voiced and Leonard describes these as “very genuine fears”. All local government departments and agencies look at these actual or potential sites individually; nobody will really look at the cumulative effect except the European Parliament.
The European Union has laid strict guidelines on the necessary environmental standards for landfills.
“We are lobbying for the EU Parliament to undertake a fact-finding mission and then to conduct a hearing. This could be the only means by which the entire picture is considered and this vibrant rural community is given the dignity of being properly heard. The petition is being supported by Six-County MEP Bairbre de Brún.
The Petitions Committee: What is it?
THE Petitions Committee of the European Parliament exists to examine concerns raised by any citizen of an EU member state about possible breaches of EU legislation in their area.
The MEPs examine each admissible petition and suggest what action (if any) should be taken at an EU level. They can, for example, send a fact-finding mission or ask the European Commission to investigate the case more fully.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.