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Left must unite to return EU to core values - Ní Riada

2 February, 2017 - by Liadh Ní Riada MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for the progressive parties of Europe to work together to provide an alternative to the increasingly militant and neo-liberal agenda of the EU.

The Ireland South MEP made the comments in Brussels as she briefed other MEPs from across Europe on the worrying direction the EU is going.

"We often talk about the need for institutional reform here but what we must recognise is that institutional reform is happening as we speak," she said.

"Through a constant stream of minor reforms we are seeing not only an increase in military spending but a general militancy creeping into the nature of this institution.

"We are seeing the bigger, wealthier Member States pursuing an austerity driven, neo-liberal agenda that they are will aware is giving rise to the aggravation of disparities, of unemployment, of poverty and of popular discontent in poorer, smaller and peripheral Member States.

"These policies have aggravated the impact of the 2007 economic crisis, contributed to the outcome of the Brexit referendum and encouraged the growth, in several Member States, of the extreme-right; an extreme right which, ironically, promotes a brand of anti-EU sentiment which is xenophobic, racist and regressive.

"The European Parliament, the main body of the EU elected by the people, is not only  losing its legislative role and competences but its democratic and representative role, in particular with the limitations introduced by the Corbett report, the newly adopted rules of procedure. 

"The effects of the removal of power from the elected part of this institution are apparent. For example, since the parliament lost control of the EU Budget it is not only smaller than it was in 2014 but in 2009 and even 2004, over a decade ago.  Meanwhile, opacity has grown at an almost equal rate as there is less transparency and accountability.

"Democratic decision-making, control and accountability decreases by the day and all is decided behind closed doors, outside the competent institutions and far away from public and political scrutiny.

"So what is the answer? It is certainly not to up sticks and run, retreating behind walls and pulling up the drawbridge as some have done.  Such actions will not protect us from an increasingly neo-liberal and militant EU, they will merely remove our influence to stop such a transition.

"The battle for reform can't be won by withdrawing.  It can only be won by uniting the socialist and progressive forces within Europe and those governments and parties – like ourselves – who dare to challenge the policy of austerity.

"The progressive and left wing parties of Europe must work together to build an alternative.  We must work together to bring the EU back to what it was originally intended as; a social Europe, a Europe of equality and solidarity, a Europe of equals.  

"Europe should not be about using its powers to impinge on the national sovereignty of countries but about ensuring that those countries adhere to an agreed set of rights for their citizens, that fairness and equality are what guide them.

"Those very basic principles are under threat, not just from elements within the EU but from global forces that are threatening stability.  Brexit has given succour to racists and xenophobes across the world, the policies of Donald Trump, while not only highly immoral and possibly illegal, are fanning the flames of violence in the Middle East and the combative words of European Council President Donald Tusk claiming the US is now a threat to Europe.  What is needed now is strong, calm, confident leadership, not people who are going to add fuel to a volatile situation and give further rise to the right.

"Even more importantly than uniting the parties of the left, we need those parties to go back to their home countries and inform the people of what is happening here,

"Make them aware of the dangers of the reforms that are happening here, of the dangers of deals like TTIP and CETA and remind them that the only way to bring about the Europe we want is to return as many progressive, socialist and leftist MEPs to this parliament as possible." 

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