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24 September 2009 Edition

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Lisbon con job on jobs

By Eoin Ó Broin 

It’s all about the economy, stupid. Brian Cowen keeps telling us that ‘we’re stronger in Europe’ and that we will lose jobs and investment if we vote No on 2 October. Enda Kenny tells us that saying Yes to Lisbon means saying ‘Yes to Jobs’.
Neither of these two economic geniuses are in a position to offer advice on job creation. Brian Cowen has presided over the loss of 200,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Enda Kenny proposed the sacking of 14,000 public sector workers in Fine Gael’s April pre-Budget submission.
Their claim that supporting the Lisbon Treaty will lead to an influx of foreign direct investment and a surge of new jobs is utter nonsense. The Treaty contains nothing that will incentivise investment or stimulate growth.
So long as Brian Cowen remains in charge jobs will continue to disappear.  And if you think he’s bad, just wait till Enda is Taoiseach.
So the Lisbon Treaty has nothing to do with the economy, right? Wrong! While Cowen and Kenny’s claims on investment and job creation are pure fantasy, the Treaty has a lot to say about the economy.
The irony is that the kind of policies promoted by Lisbon are exactly the same policies that drove us all into our current economic crisis.
For the past 20 years the EU has been pushing a right-wing economic agenda, promoting deregulation and liberalisation. Existing EU rules attempt to limit member states’ spending and place restrictions on government support for failing companies. The EU aggressively promotes competition, in all areas of the economy, including public services. All of this weakens the ability of the state to manage the economy and leads to privatisation and inequality.
The Lisbon Treaty contains seven important articles and a protocol that together will further accelerate the EUs right wing neo-liberal economic agenda.
Article’s 10A, 16, 2B and 188C give the European Commission significant powers over the negotiation and conclusion of international trade agreements. This will have a liberalising impact on agriculture and services, including health and education. In turn this will result in lower incomes for farming communities and increased privatisation of public services.
Article 57 limits the ability of the EU to reverse recent liberalising policies of movement of capital to and from non-EU countries. At a time when the public is calling for greater regulation of international banking and finance such a restriction would be utter madness.
Article 115A strengthens the powers of the Commission to police what they call ‘excessive spending’ by member states giving it increased powers to limit government deficits to 3% of GDP.
Article 176A sets out the EUs new energy policy and explicitly places this in the context of the ‘market’ where the rules of competition and restrictions on state apply.
And finally the Protocol on the Internal Market provides a general rule on ‘distortions to competition’. This is important in cases where, say, the rights of workers clash with the rights of business. Under the terms of the protocol the Protocol will allow the Commission and Court of Justice to side with companies over workers every time.
Of course, don’t listen to me, I’m a Shinner and obviously economically illiterate. Listen to the economic experts at IBEC.  During the first Lisbon referendum campaign the employers’ organisation told the Forum on Europe that the Treaty “creates the legal basis for the liberalisation of services of general economic interest. A Yes vote for the Lisbon Treaty creates the potential for increased opportunities for Irish business particularly in areas subject to increasing liberalisation such as Health, Education, Transport, Energy and the Environment”.
There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. 

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