Comment: Cameron is fighting for the wrong things in Europe

Commitment to the European project means putting people before corporations


There is an uncomfortable tone to the communications from No.10 about our European partners. As Cameron dangles Brexit in front of his fellow European leaders, he seems to be reducing our key strategic link to the level of a dysfunctional relationship.

In the world of diplomacy, not to mention in personal relationships, threatening to leave an alliance is unlikely to be the route to improved communication and is the most desperate form of leverage.

As Greens, we believe we should indicate our clear commitment to the European project first and only then move on to argue how we can make the Union work better for all its members.

The demands that the prime minister has made of Council President Tusk also leave a sour taste in the mouth. Writing competitiveness ‘into the DNA of the whole European Union by cutting the burden on business’ is not a proposal that will create the kind of Europe that would improve the quality of life for the majority of its citizens.

And not surprisingly, our ‘green crap’ prime minister fails to recognise the pressing issues facing our environment in his letter to Tusk. 

A vision for Europe that puts people and the environment first would include a challenge to the politics of endless austerity that is defacing European societies, working to reduce inequalities and developing a shared and lasting prosperity within environmental limits.

This is so very different from Cameron’s desire for a more competitive, regulation-lite Europe, where corporations rather than elected members hold the reins of power. Creating a ‘People’s Europe’ will need EU action against the dominance of powerful corporations.

Given the trans-national nature of these corporations, the EU is the right place to challenge and regulate such power. Some key changes of policy direction are essential to democratise the EU.

We must terminate negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is nothing but a corporate charter. A trade deal, negotiated in secret, and whose central aim is to enhance the corporations’ power to challenge the policies of democratic governments in private courts, has no place in a democratic EU.

We need to tackle corporate lobbying, whose prevalence and ubiquity has long been a target of Green ire. To challenge the power of private vested interests at EU level we urgently need a compulsory and legally-binding EU lobby register, requiring lobbyists to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities, something called for by over 100 European NGOs. 

We also need an end to the ‘revolving door’. A recent report by the Corporate Europe Observatory revealed that 9 out of 26 outgoing commissioners who left office in 2014 have moved effortlessly into roles in corporations or other organisations with links to big business.

When it comes to the environment we need stronger, not weaker, EU protection and regulation. We need EU climate, energy and environment policy to be more, not less, ambitious; we need to set a goal of delivering 100 per cent renewable energy in the EU by 2050.

To bring about these changes within the EU, we need to see a stronger, more effective European Parliament, with greater decision-making powers, enhanced powers of scrutiny over the European Commission and Council, and the ability to initiate legislation.

None of these things, of course, is on Cameron’s list of desired reforms. Indeed, in so many ways he has worked against these and other reforms that would be for the common good. We are almost at the point where some EU leaders are turning the tables and tearfully asking us to leave for the sake of the children.

The UK government has opposed action to strengthen banking regulation and cap bankers’ bonuses, an agenda led by the Greens in parliament. The Tories have consistently sought to block an EU-wide financial transaction tax to curb speculation and raise revenue from the financial sector.

When it comes to tax, Cameron proclaimed tax transparency as one of his key priorities, yet the UK has denied the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Tax access to important documents they requested in order to carry out its mandate to investigate tax evasion and dumping in Europe.

When it comes to the environment, the Tories have unleashed a catalogue of attacks on the UK’s renewables sector, flouting their legal commitments to achieve 15 per cent of renewable energy by 2020.

The growth of Eurosceptic parties across our continent suggests that many European citizens have fallen out of love with their Union. If Cameron thinks the way to win back their affection is to produce a parade of men in suits to tell us that business thinks membership is good for us we fear he is on entirely the wrong track.

Commitment to the European project means making it ours, building a People’s Europe not a corporate Europe. That is what Greens are working for every day in the European institution, and it is what we will fight for once the referendum campaign begins in earnest.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England, and sits on the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament 

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