SchNEWS 287, Friday 15th December, 2000


"(Enlargement) will bring great economic benefits. These countries will bring... material resources including land and energy, and they will bring markets for our products." European Round-Table of Industrialists

Up to 70,000 demonstrators rallied last week on the streets of Nice before the European Union summit. At the same time as a charter of fundamental rights was being discussed counter-summit meetings were being cancelled or raided while others fought battles with police who wouldn't let them into France!

On the day of the summit a few thousand people tried to storm the centre and were met with the usual greetings of tear gas and stun grenades. A bank was burnt, a few shops were trashed and the French President Chirac said the anti-capitalist demonstrators were "contrary to democratic principles." Yet behind the clouds of smoke, the un-elected and unaccountable faces of big business were once again pushing their agenda onto the centre stage, using the EU as a Trojan horse for more corporate global carve-ups.

Carve Up

Countries, we are told, are desperate to join the EU club. However, before any can play, their economies must be 'harmonised', y'know, public services slashed and privatised, etc. In fact, you could call it the European version of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SchNews 256) forced onto the 'Third World'. As Green MEP Caroline Lucas points out "In short, governments are expected to give up control over their own economies - spelling destruction for local businesses."

Take Slovakia. With approximately 50,000 staff, the Slovak Railway Company is the biggest employer in the country. In 1998 the Slovak government announced plans to sack nearly half the workforce, and a year later they signed a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank. With strings attached.

The strings will result in a rise in fares of 30%, a cut of two thirds in both state subsidies and in staff pay, a reduction in rail freight and a cut in railway lines. There was no public discussion about these conditions. Instead the media reported that the government and the rail company were given two weeks to accept: if they agreed to meet them, the Bank was ready to provide the loan immediately.

When a Slovakian environmental NGO sent a protest letter to the President of the Bank, he replied: "The proposed restructuring measures in this case mirror those agreed over recent years between the Bank and virtually all railway companies in the ten Central and Eastern Europe Countries which have applied for EU membership."

So that's all right then.

Fast Track To Profits

They call it 'qualified majority voting', which basically means countries can't individually veto decisions. Instead the European Commission gets to make decisions without having to answer to anyone. It's called 'fast-tracking' and is popular with big business who are fed up with their great ideas being watered down or blocked altogether by interfering governments or nit-picking protestors. They want swift, centralised decision-making, making it easier to push their demands through an already industry-friendly European bureaucracy. And up to a point, they got their way with more trade decisions passing out of national control. National and the European Parliaments now have little control of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (see box) and some services.

If you think this is all confusing, EU bureaucrats estimate that it will take two months to produce a consolidated text of the Nice Treaty, i.e. to come to agreement about what has been agreed!

To help decipher it read:


Intellectual Property Rights - ugh?

This is another one of those scams where corporations get to be in control, and this time they get to control knowledge by patenting it! Biotech companies get to own our vegetable seeds and genetic companies are in charge of the human gene. Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies are in charge of the drugs. Right now, the American Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association has pushed their government to threaten trade sanctions on India and Egypt for having the cheek to produce low cost drugs of patented equivalents to help HIV and Aids sufferers.



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