A voice for a different Europe
Interview with Susan George
(24 December 2007) The defeated EU Constitution has been repackaged as the Reform Treaty, which does not say a single word about social
Europe. Rejecting it is crucial to save democracy.
EOIN Ó BROIN speaks to writer and social activist SUSAN GEORGE about how important the Irish referendum on the EU Treaty is for democrats and progressives across
“IT MAKES me feel as though I have been spat on. It makes me feel that they have nothing but contempt for the voters. It is as if we didn’t vote, our votes don’t count, our opinions don’t count and we are being told, ‘Just shut up and let the technocrats get on with it.’”
Susan George is not known to exaggerate. Her writing is careful and considered, well-researched and internationally respected. But the decision to repackage the defeated EU Constitution as the Reform Treaty has angered her. She feels “spat on”. That people in
Although maybe not a household name in
From 1990 to 1994, George sat on the board of Greenpeace International. From 1999 to 2006 she was-vice president of ATTAC France (Association for Taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens). ATTAC promotes the taxation of international financial transactions in order to curb stock market speculation and provide revenue for development projects in the developing world.
She is currently chair of the Transnational Institute in
Author of 14 books, translated into many languages, Susan George is best-known for her ground-breaking studies of global poverty, food insecurity and the impact of debt on the developing world. Since the publication of How The Other Half Dies (1976), she has been a trenchant critic of the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. More recently she has focused much of her attention on the World Trade Organisation and the impact of trade liberalisation on the world’s poor.
John Pilger described her 2003 book, The Lugano Report, as “an extraordinary, original book of exquisite irony, a kind of Catch-22 of capitalism”.
The EU Constitution
In 2004, ATTAC France took a decision to oppose the EU Constitution. In their view, the treaty was promoting neo-liberalism, poverty, insecurity and mass-unemployment. On 29 May 2005, in the biggest ever turn-out for an EU-related poll, 55 per cent of French voters rejected the EU Constitution. The 70 per cent turn-out was in sharp contrast to the 45 per cent turn-out for the 2004 European parliamentary elections.
As vice-president of ATTAC France, Susan George played a central part in the campaign. Opinion polls had been indicating for some time that the ‘No’ side was gaining ground. There was widespread shock across
“It seemed to me to be in the long line of French movements on the left for human emancipation. Once people actually found out what was in the treaty it was quite natural to vote ‘No.’”
The French said ‘No’ because the treaty was “a blueprint for neo-liberal economics and privatisation, giving no protection to public services and very little protection for the environment”.
The Reform Treaty
Following the rejection of the treaty by the French and then the Dutch, the European Commission announced a “period of reflection”. Eighteen months later, the Council of Europe agreed the Reform Treaty, containing 96 per cent of the articles of the EU Constitution. George believes that, during the intervening period:
“The European Council and Commission were trying to figure out the best way to mask the fact that they were going to try and shove the same thing down our throats. You can’t just say that the French and the Dutch voted wrong so we’re going to hand them the same text again. They had to find a way to hide what they were doing.”
That the Reform Treaty is almost identical to the EU Constitution is not in doubt. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, speaking to the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in July 2007, said:
“In terms of content, the proposals remain largely unchanged – they are simply presented in a different way.” Giscard d’Estaing, former President of France, was chair of the convention that drew up the Constitution.
As a life-long campaigner for trade justice, George is particularly concerned about the implications of the Reform Treaty for the developing world.
“The relationship between developed
“The EU will use these new powers in the Reform Treaty to do exactly what he pleases,” says George, “and people from Trócaire and other development organisations can complain all they like to the Irish Government but the Irish Government is not going to be able to do anything about it.”
George is also dismissive of those who argue that the Reform Treaty is
George contends that the motivations behind the drafters of the treaty are best summarised by liberal economist Adam Smith’s famous phrase: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people.”
Despite strong opposition to the Reform Treaty, Susan George cannot be described as anti-European. In her 2004 book, Another World is Possible If... she argued the case for a strengthened Social Europe as a global counterweight to US-led corporate globalisation and militarisation.
Rejecting the Reform Treaty for George is a crucial aspect of her alternative.
“I want to open up some space. We have to keep saying no until they get the point and we can sit down and have a real discussion about the future of
“Europe ought to be an alternative model to the
With opinion polls indicating that 62 per cent of the Southern Irish electorate is undecided on the Reform Treaty, Susan George’s arguments are a reminder that opposition to the EU and opposition to the Reform Treaty are not the same thing.
• Susan George’s new books, We The Peoples of