Commentaries on the European Commission’s Pact for Stability

Three journalists for l’Humanité give their reactions to the European Commission’s plans for enforcing measures of austerity on the European nations, starting with those in the Euro Zone.

The following are commentaries on the Commission’s paper, the full text (in English translation) being available at this link.

The Parliaments are Dispossessed

by Lina Sankari

Reduced to a simple role of executants, the national parliaments — and thus the peoples — will no longer have control over certain policies.

In a way this is Act III of the attack on democracy. After the Constitutional Treaty of 2005 and its avatar in Lisbon, this text aims at coordinating policy, “in particular in domains of national competence”, in order to increase “competitivity”. Thus, the states are invited to succeed in developing policies in order to reach the objectives fixed by the European Union.In this way, power will henceforth be more concentrated in the hands of an non-elected European Commission.

The aim remains to gain control of all policies that excape the grasp of the European right wing, via a regular periodic surveillance of the pact for stability. In the end, the decision as to objectives will remain a decision of the governments of nations in the Euro Zone; this will permit them to out-maneuver the other nations.

Furthermore, in order to reach the objectives fixed by the heads of government “for the first twelve months”, the Commission will play the role of auditors, validating the “progress” made by states, while the European Parliament, the more democratic of these institutions, is hardly even mentioned.

Link to the original French text: Les Parlements dépossédés.

Workers put on a Diet of Bread and Water

by Clothilde Mathieu

Under the Dictates of Competitivity, the States Should Provide a
“Guarantee of Salary Moderation” in both the Private and Public Sectors

The European Commission chooses to define the competitivity of a country solely via the link between salary level evolution and gains in productivity, thus espousing the German model. Fixing objectives for salary moderation, with reference to that for other European partners, the Commission goes further by comparing unit costs of manpower with that of “other principal commercial partners”. The race for the lowest-cost social policy framework is thus launched.

But salary moderation has reduced internal demand in Germany — gains in productivity not distributed to workers have not, for the most part, found their way to consumption. This salary moderation has also reinforced the German economy’s tendency toward exportation.
In order to carry this out, it is proposed to put in question all the existing systems of negotiation. It means breaking up the system of collective bargaining, fragmenting it by sector, or by region.

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To this is added the abolition of the indexing of salaries relative to prices in Belgium or in Austria.

Finally, to “send an important signal”, the states are held to practicing moderation with respect to salaries in the public sector.

Link to the original French text: Les salariés au régime sec.

Doing Business without Shackles

by Lina Sakari

If the Treaty of Lisbon Has Already Contributed to the Lifting of Certain Barriers to Competition, This Text Proposes to Go Even Further

The European Union has never been pals with what are called “restrictions”. It is thus envsaged to open the so-called “protected sectors” in order to eliminate “unjustified obstacles” and to “favor competition”. By way of this text, work on Sundays, in the evening, even at night, is encouraged in stores. It is clear, this new blow is directed against existing labor law. In the same vein as the Attali report on “Liberating Growth”, the pact for competitivity tends to deregulate the economic activity by lifting numerus clausus [1] restrictions on notaries, pharmacists, taxi-drivers, and bailiffs.

Finally, the reference to “networked industries” (post office, energy, transport, telecommunication) is far from innocent. Until now, even if the separation of workers and management [2] has been established in certain sectors, the historic operators have maintained certain privileges, which are veritable nightmares for the Commission. Just so many elements that manage to escape the Treaty of Lisbon, with its de-regulative and competitive objectives, both in the public and private sectors.

Link to the original French text: Commercer sans entraves.

Retirement in the Cross-Hairs
by Max Staat

No Limit is Given for Increasing the Age for Access to Retirement, nor for the Diminution of Social Welfare Payments

“The viability of social allocations and of retirement benefits will be evaluated” (!) When such a text is carried by Nicolas Sarkozy, who, several months ago imposed upon the French people, in majority opposed to the action, the displacement of the age of retirement to 62, and to 67 at full rate, as well as the extension of the period of pay-check contributions to 40 years, one can be certain that the adjustments among the European countries will be to the detriment of the populations.

Furthermore, it is made clear that “the age of retirement will be aligned with changes in the average life-span”. In the name of this principle the legal age of beginning retirement could be pushed to 65, or even further. This situation exists in certain European countries, such as England.

This document targets not only the age of beginning retirement, but also its financial conditions. Social welfare payments are also targeted. The various reforms of Balladur (1993) and Fillon (2003) have already led, in the period of a few years, to losses of 15 to 20% in retirement payments. “They” intend to continue in this direction.

Link to the original French text: Le retraite en ligne de mire.

[1] numerus clausus, restrictions by quota for entry into certain professions.

[2] séparation patrimoniale

Translated by Henry Crapo.