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4 May 2015 Edition

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Another Europe is possible – Treo eile don Eoraip

• MEPs from GUE/NGL EU Parliament group with Martina Anderson MEP and Gerry Kelly MLA at the former Girdwood Barracks site in Belfast during a fact-finding mission on the Peace Process

Funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) – Aontas Clé na hEorpa/Na Glasaigh Chlé Nordacha – Crúpa Paliminta – Parlaimimt na h Eorpa

GUE/NGL MEPs visit Belfast and Dublin 

MARTINA ANDERSON MEP welcomed a group of GUE/NGL MEPs to Belfast at the end of April as part of a two-day fact finding mission to Ireland to see the benefits of European membership at first-hand.

The Irish MEP met MEPs from SYRIZA, Podemos and representatives from the Basque Country following a visit to the European Parliament by Declan Kearney in January during which he met with MEPS from Podemos and SYRIZA to discuss the current status of the political process in the North. 

During the two-day visit, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group members visited Parliament Buildings at Stormont with Martina Anderson and met with Junior Minister Jennifer McCann and other MLAs. 

She accompanied the MEPs to the site of the former Girdwood Barracks in north Belfast, a former British military installation which is now being redeveloped for the benefit of the local community. 

They also met with representatives of the local community in the Duncairn Arts Centre to see how European funding is benefiting local areas. 

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Martina Anderson said:

“This visit to Belfast and Dublin came about after the unprecedented and unanimously-supported motion by the European Parliament in November urging support for the Irish Peace Process. 

“This delegation is an indication of Europe’s commitment to see all outstanding agreements implemented and to demonstrates support for the political process,” she said.

The MEPs saw how European money is being spent in Belfast. 

“They had the chance to see at first-hand how European funding, such as Peace III, has impacted on local communities here as well as discussing priorities for Peace 4 funding.

“They were struck by the impact European funding has had in north Belfast in particular, transforming the former British military site at Girdwood into a new community resource,” she explained. 

Martina Anderson added that the delegation was also impressed by the anti-austerity stance taken by local communities in the North. 

“They engaged with a wide range of political opinion in Ireland and saw the determination of local communities to challenge the austerity agenda, whether it comes from Westminster, Dublin or Brussels.”

The GUE/NGL later travelled on for meetings at the Dáil in Dublin.

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Matt Carthy moderates discussion on wealth taxation at key EU conference

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THE GUE/NGL group held a key economic conference, ‘From Tax Fraud to Tax Justice: Corporate Tax Dumping and Taxing Wealth’, on Tuesday 21 April. 

This day-long conference examined tax evasion and avoidance as well as progressive alternatives for fair taxation. The conference was attended by Meath West TD Péadar Tóibín and was addressed by Dr Tom McDonnell of the Nevin Economic Research Institute.

One of the most lively and informative discussions on the day was the ‘Forum on Wealth Taxation’, chaired by Midlands North West MEP Matt Carthy. This forum heard contributions from Dr McDonnell and from members of the EH Bildu led Government of the Basque region, who have been operating a wealth tax since 2013.

Opening the forum, Matt Carthy outlined the importance of the discussion as a means of establishing the type of society that we want to live in.

During his presentation, Dr McDonnell said: 

“The fiscal contraction we’ve seen in Ireland since 2008 has been massive and primary public spending has now fallen to unprecedented low levels. 

“In Ireland today, households in the 10th percentile own €1,200 in net wealth, while households in the 90th percentile own €506,000 in net wealth. That means the 90th percentile controls 422 times the wealth of the 10th percentile, and that is not even taking into account the super-wealthy at the at the very top. 

“Wealth inequality grows over time in the absence of progressive taxation. A tax of net wealth would raise revenue for the exchequer and would target those with the broadest shoulders.”

In his concluding remarks, Matt Carthy said:

“It appears from the general discussions today that a tax on wealth can be both a practical and progressive means of taxation and a useful tool in establishing a fair society.

“I am particularly pleased to hear the proposal from Dr McDonnell of a tax on net wealth of households with a threshold of €1million and his assertion that a well designed tax on net wealth would overcome any potential obstacles. This echoes what progressive voices in Ireland have been calling for over the past number of years.”

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Lynn Boylan report on Right2Water due in summer

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LYNN BOYLAN is at the helm of a number of flagship initiatives in Europe, including the Citizens’ Initiative on the Right2Water. Lynn is the lead author on an in-depth report on Right2Water which is due to be published this summer and includes an analysis and a comparison of water services and the consequences of privatisation in countries across the European Union. 

Informing the content of her report was the Right2Water delegation Lynn led to Brussels in February. 

The delegation consisted of a number of Right2Water unions, including the CWU, CPSU, OPATSI, Unite and Mandate. The delegation proved to be very informative as the Irish delegation heard from a number of their European counterparts on the risks of privatisation of services and how many cities are moving towards the remunicipalisation of water services. 

Lynn has also taken a pivotal role in the Right2Water campaign at home. She has spoken at a number of national rallies and manned stalls across the city on Saturday mornings.

Another focus of Lynn’s work in Europe is the environment and food safety.

As GUE/NGL group lead negotiator on the issue she successfully lobbied her fellow MEPS to pass a resolution calling on the EU Commission to propose legislation on mandatory country of origin labelling for meat in processed food.

Lynn also raised the issue of genetically modified crops (GMs) and the potential threat of the flawed and watered-down legislation introduced.

During the committee stage, Lynn put forward a number amendments that challenged the Council proposal of creating a system that would require member states to ask permission from biotech companies not to include their territories in the companies’ GMO authorisation requests. 

Other important issues raised by Lynn in Parliament include the ongoing detention of Ibrahim Halawa, the only EU citizen still imprisoned after protests in Cairo nearly two years ago. She recently discussed the matter with a representative from Frederica Mogherini’s office, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs. She will continue to lobby both the EU Parliament and the Irish Government to secure Ibrahim’s release.

Lynn Boylan also raised the problem of youth unemployment by participating in a debate on Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) funding.

She has characterised the EU attempt to address these devastating levels of youth unemployment across Europe as being “marred by a lack of ambition, a lack of funds and a lack of understanding”.

In May, Lynn is hosting a youth entrepreneur event in the home of the failed youth guarantee, Ballymun. This workshop event will aim to equip young people from across Dublin with some of the skills required to get their business ideas off the ground and will be delivered by Madi Sharma, a successful social entrepreneur.

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Juncker plan remains fundamentally flawed, says Liadh Ní Riada

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KEY COMMITTEE VOTES on Juncker’s plan for a European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) were taken in April and unfortunately it remains fundamentally flawed despite the modest improvements secured by the European Parliament, says Liadh Ní Riada.

The Juncker Plan has to come with a massive health warning. While I welcome and indeed have been calling for investment as opposed to austerity, the EFSI does little to boost public investment.

There is a level of liquidity in the financial markets which could easily be redirected toward funding a genuine public investment programme with would produce a far better return for society.

This could be led by the EIB with backing from the ECB as well as by member state governments, if they were to scrap the straightjacket that is the fiscal compact.

Instead, the EFSI creates a profit-guarantee scheme for private institutional investors at the cost of taxpayers.

We have European citizens living under incredibly dramatic economic and financial conditions, large employers are relocating to Asia, and there is no investment. Working conditions are worsening, unemployment is increasing , our young people have no expectations of a future, poverty has reached alarming levels, the welfare system is crumbling, and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

We are looking for a New Deal for the people of the European Union.

This means providing an additional €500billion for investment annually over ten years to kick-start the economy and bring an end to the economic and social crisis.

We need smart investment to revive the economy, to enable a social sustainable green economy. Investment in research, infrastructure, education, SMEs, social enterprises, and co-operatives is needed to propel us out of this crisis.

What we need is a true public investment plan for Europe. One which invests in the people and not one that is essentially creating another financial bubble. The ordinary taxpayer should not be paying for private profiteers.

* Liadh Ní Riada MEP is the GUE/NGL shadow rapporteur on the budget elements of the EFSI.

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