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The European Union must be radically reformed - Carthy

8 February, 2019 - by Matt Carthy MEP


The European Union must be radically reformed - Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that people across Europe were looking for a fundamental change of direction by the EU. He said Sinn Féin wanted a radically reformed EU which would be a cooperative union of nation states committed to working together for progressive social and economic change.

Speaking at the Sligo Citizens Dialogue on the Future of Europe, Matt Carthy said that constructive criticism was needed to make the EU work better, and that this should not be seen, as a question of being in or out of the EU or out of the EU:

"What Sinn Féin wants is a European Union that works for the people of Europe, not for EU insiders, corporate interests or established political parties from the larger states."

Saying that the euro crisis was a severe blow to the idea of solidarity between member states, he said:

"People across Europe are rejecting the EU model that has created winners and losers, precarious employment, wealth inequality, debt dependent growth and privatised public services. A failure to recognise this will pose a threat to the future of the European Union itself."

Calling for a complete change of direction, Carthy said:

"Powers will have to be returned to states. Brussels will have to be cleaned up and democratised. We cannot have winners and losers. The failed economic model must change. The privatisation agenda must end.

"The federalists will have to be reined back in and made to listen to what the people of the member states actually want.

"The European Union must be radically reformed to become a cooperative union of nation states committed to working together for progressive social and economic change.

"We should be working together on common issues such as taking ambitious action on climate change, advancing social and employment rights across Europe, building a system of fair trade and using our common strengths to improve the lives of citizens.

"It’s my view that such a Europe is possible - it’s my ambition that Irish political representatives will work together to achieve it."

ENDS

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Sligo Citizens Dialogue on the Future of Europe

It is important that the people of Ireland are involved in a discussion about the future of Europe.  This needs to be an honest discussion about the successes and failures of the European Union over recent years.

The discussion on the future of Europe has been overshadowed by Brexit. For Ireland the dangers posed by Brexit are real and immediate.

Under any circumstances Brexit would be problematic for Ireland - Britain is our largest trading partner and it stands between us and the rest of Europe.  But, all of the challenges that Brexit presents are multiplied by the fact that our island is divided and we face the prospect of having one part of the country in the EU while the other is dragged out against the democratic wishes of the people who live there.

There can be no hardening of the border in Ireland.  Irish citizens in the north cannot be abandoned. Border communities, which suffered so much due to partition, simply will not put up with their communities being divided by a hard border.   With my party colleagues I have seen it as my role to stand up for Irish citizens in the North and to ensure  that MEPs from across Europe understand exactly what is at stake and why they need to ensure that the people of Ireland are not collateral damage for Britain’s Brexit mess.

Constructive criticism is needed to make the EU work better.  This is not, and should not be seen, as a question of being in the EU or out of the EU.

Ireland’s place is clearly in the EU.  But that doesn’t mean that we cannot and should not work to make it a better, fairer, more democratic EU.

What Sinn Féin wants is a European Union that works for the people of Europe, not for the EU insiders, corporate interests or established political parties from the larger states.

As an MEP I see my role very much as standing up for my constituents and for Ireland, and being a watchdog for the Irish people in Brussels ensuring that the EU is acting in their best interests.

That means:

  • Working for a fairer distribution of structural funds and CAP payments.
  • Getting support for important infrastructure projects such as the Western Rail corridor, rural broadband or regional airports.
  • Opposing proposals such as the Vulture Funds Directive that would reinforce the free rein of the banks and vulutres and tilt the balance even further from Irish mortgage holders.
  • Opposing to the EUs aggressive, so-called new generation free trade deals, such as CETA and TTIP, which threaten to undermine environmental ambition, public services, workers pay and conditions, financial stability and our agricultural sector.
  • Challenging the policies of the ECB, Europe’s unelected government, when they refuse to adapt the needs of vulnerable states and regions.
  • Opposing increased military spending and the creation of an EU army for which there is no support in Ireland and which would violate our constitutional commitment to neutrality.

Sinn Féin’s criticisms of the European Union are consistent and constructive. But we are clear that we want fundamental change.  The status quo is not good enough.  It is not working for the people of Europe.

We want a European Union that supports progressive social and economic change.  That plays a positive role in the wider world, particularly on issues such as climate change.  We want a European Union that listens to the concerns of the people of Europe who are increasingly alienated from a project that is not delivering for them.

In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC), what was ostensibly a free trade organisation.   Today we are part of a political union where many of those in key positions of power aspire to create a federal state with not only a common currency but also tax raising powers and an EU army.    The EU has become characterised by arrogance and bureaucracy.  Lobbying and the influence of corporate interests are huge problems.

As the permissive consensus on European integration has eroded, the people of Europe have been trying to say something to those pursing the goal of ever closer union. This was clear in the rejection of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, in the initial Irish No votes on Lisbon and Nice, even in the high support amongst working class communities in Britain for Brexit and in the growing support for far right parties across Europe.  My fear is that those at the helm in the EU are not listening.

We also need to recognise that the euro crisis has hurt the EU.  It was a severe blow to the idea of solidarity between member states and between the peoples of Europe.  Weaker, smaller, peripheral member states paid the heaviest price.   That includes the Irish people and the people of Greece.   Let’s be clear: EU-imposed austerity had devastating consequences - for example patients were dying in Greece as the public health system disintegrated under the unbearable burden of EU-imposed austerity.

We need to recognise that people across Europe are rejecting the EU model that has created winners and losers, precarious employment, wealth inequality (including inequality between core and peripheral states), debt dependent growth and privatised public services. A failure to recognise this will pose a threat to the future of the European Union itself.

We need to recognise that while the EU is keen to hold itself up as a project of peace and defender of human rights, there are serious questions to answer regarding the treatment of refugees fleeing war through European legislation, the situation of political prisoners on our territories, and the EU’s complicity in the perpetration of abuses elsewhere through its economic and political ties.

We also recognise that people and communities want the decisions that affect them to be made as close to them as possible so that they can have a real influence on policies that affect their lives.  This will require the transfer of some powers back from the European Union to member states, including the power to make decisions about public spending and priorities ourselves.  The type of changes we are talking about - enshrining social and employment rights in law; returning fiscal powers to member states; ensuring that states can maintain their own foreign policy - will require the EU’s treaties to be changed.

There are two visions for the future of Europe.

One is for an increasingly integrated and federal European Union empowering corporations and disempowering citizens, characterised by bureaucracy and red tape, increased military spending and a growing alienation from the people of Europe.

The other vision is for a social Europe that puts people first.   But this requires a complete change of direction.
Powers will have to be returned to states.
Brussels will have to be cleaned up and democratised.

We cannot have winners and losers.  The failed economic model must change.  The privatisation agenda must end.

The federalists will have to be reined back in and made to listen to what the people of the member states actually want.
The European Union must be radically reformed to become a cooperative union of nation states committed to working together for progressive social and economic change. We should be working together on common issues such as taking ambitious action on climate change, advancing social and employment rights across Europe, building a system of fair trade and using our common strengths to improve the lives of citizens.
It’s my view that such a Europe is possible - it’s my ambition that Irish political representatives will work together to achieve it.

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