Western European News Digest
Return to the Delors Plan for European Infrastructure
In a June 19 interview with the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Giulio Tremonti relaunched a call for the "Delors Plan" for European infrastructure, which explicitly rejected the British "offshore" model. Tremonti gave the interview in the aftermath of the failure of the EU budget summit, on June 19. As usual, his statements are a mixed bag of good and bad elements, but on balance, Tremonti focussed on the necessity of finally adopting the original version of the Delors plan, or his own plan, for regulation of international trade.
"Brussels [headquarters of the European Commission] today looks like a large funeral parlor," he said. "They look like many farmers whose crops have been cursed, unable to understand what happened, or why it happened." On the necessity of the Delors plan, Tremonti stated: "I had proposed it already during the Italian EU chairmanship semester, but it was too early. It was then decided to opt for a second best, which is the Action Plan for Growth. I believe that today the historical moment is ripe to materialize a revival of the Delors Plan. Not only that: It is time to make a rational and non-dogmatic industrial policy: protecting our productive industries while they are being restructured; creating favorable conditions, with zero taxes, to attract capital according to the Irish model; introducing a moratorium on European regulations.
"The Delors plan is a plan for financing innovations, based on issuing European debt titles, denominated Union Bonds. Such a plan is dramatically necessary, considering the times that are coming, not only to innovate, but also to regenerate a European industry. I do not know if we are about [to see] a new 1929.... I do know that it is necessary to intervene on European industry to regenerate it in the shortest time possible, with the strongest possible power."
On the objections that all this costs money and countries like Italy, with their huge debts, would have a credibility problem in proposing such policies, Tremonti answers: "I do not speak as an Italian, but as a European politician. There is enormous room in Europe, to issue European debt titles. It is time to cash the Maastricht dividends, ... to support the financing of a Colbertist plan for development, as you call it."
On the objection that Britain's economy performs better than those of France, Germany, and Italy, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair insists, Tremonti answers: "Britain does not have the euro, [and] has been always unique due to its historical and geopolitical position. And within Britain, London is an offshore center, even in respect to its own country."
On trade, Tremonti says, "It was ideological insanity to abruptly liberalize world trade.... [T]he process could not be stopped but could have been governed with longer deadlines. However, we have one last chance. As a minimum, Europe must imitate America, with its protectionist policies and, as a maximum, Europe and America together must seriously reflect upon what is happening and reopen the WTO [World Trade Organization] round. A new political reflection is fundamental. Within the WTO, the West has all the margin to regovern the process and stop its fatal slide towards a suicidal marketism. If the WTO match succeeds, and gives us the necessary strategic margin of time, a parallel reconversion plan is credible and possible. The political kernel is the following: Protecting oneself is not enough; reconverting without protection is impossible. Protection and reconversion of European industry are two sides of the same thing, which is fundamental for European survival."
Schroeder Defends General Welfare Against Free Trade
In a statement published by Bildzeitung on June 23, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made a direct response to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "free market" propaganda offensive. The German Chancellor wrote that, "Europe is more than the market. It is a successful model of society and social state, based on common values, rights and obligations. It has preserved peace and brought prosperity. This model is presently being called into question."
Schroeder did not name Blair, but his statement is clearly in direct response to a statement by Blair in favor of the free market and more deregulation and flexibility, the day before at the European Parliament (see next item).
"Those who want to destroy this model on the basis of national egotism or for populistic motives, commits a crime against future generations," Schroeder wrote.
"Which kind of Europe do we want.... Do we want a Europe that is united, capable of action, a real political union? Or, do we rather want no more than a big free trade zone, going back from the European Union to the European Economic Community of the past? This is not what I want."
"There must not be a leveling down of the notion of Europe, into the mere notion of market," Schroeder said. The social dimension is important, and there is the role of the state, which necessarily must be a strong one, Schroeder added, calling for common European "action against wage dumping, and erosion of labor rights."
Blair to Europe: Change Your Social Model or Die
British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave his maiden speech before the European Parliament June 23. He will be chairman of the European Council for the next six months. His speech was an attack on the "social market" of fair wages and health care, and a promotion of the "free market."
After opening with references to celebrating 50 years of successful growth and peace in Europe, Blair said: "Now, almost 50 years on, we have to renew." If Europe hopes "we can avoid globalization," he said, "then we risk failure." We must "modernize our social model," he said, in favor of one whose purpose should be "to enhance our ability to compete, to help our people cope with globalization." Therefore, we should put an end to "regulation and job protection."
Also, Blair renewed his assault against the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). "A modern budget for Europe is not one that ten years from now is still spending 40% of its money on the CAP." Instead of supporting agriculture, money should be spent for "R&D," whatever that means to Blair, and defense: "Look at the numbers in European armies today and our expenditure. Do they really answer the strategic needs of today?" Blair then pushed for a new global trade agreement "which will increase trade for all, especially the poorest nations."
Italy's Northern League Launches Anti-Immigrant Campaign
Those same Italian Lega Nord (Northern League) representatives who recently called for a return to the national currency, the lira, against the euro, have launched a "law and order" campaign against immigrants. Following a suspicious series of rapes in northern Italy, allegedly perpetrated by illegal immigrants, Reform Minister Roberto Calderoli has called for their "chemical castration." In Varese, where last week the young son of a League member was stabbed by an Albanian, Welfare Minister Roberto Maroni, among others, led a mass demonstration against "illegal immigrants."
Parallel to the Northern League, whose program calls for the separation of northern Italy from the rest of country, the neo-fascist Forza Nuova (the party of Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of "Il Duce") organized a demonstration of hooligans from Northern Italy to march on the streets of Varese. An attack on foreigners was avoided only through the presence of the police. On June 13, in Pontida (northern Italy), League founder and "maximum leader" Umberto Bossi appeared for the first time in public, after the illness that struck him last year. Physically impaired, Bossi nonetheless railed against "Europe." The majority of the Leghisti gathered at the meeting supported a national referendum for reintroducing the lira, in a dual-circulation system. Calderoli said the League will soon start to collect the necessary signatures to start a referendum.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, after a meeting with EU chairman Jose Manuel Barroso, that, "It is impossible to abandon the euro."
It is clear that the League, and the government coalition in a softer form, are using the euro and the immigrant issue as part of a right-wing campaign, aimed at finding scapegoats, but not real solutions.
Italy Split On Blair Campaign
The reactions in Italy to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's putting himself forward as the "free market" leader for Europe are radically divided.
"We must help Blair," said Italian EU Commissioner Franco Frattini, reported Corriere della Sera on June 23. A former foreign minister and a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party Forza Italia, Frattini said that Italy "cannot avoid helping Blair and his vision of true reformism: reform of labor market, liberalization, modernization of the economy. There is room for that reformism in Italy. Moreover, Italy can put together reformist forces in Europe.... I am thinking of Nicolas Sarkozy [of France] and Angela Merkel [of Germany]." Both Sarkozy and Merkel represent the right-wing austerity policies of the European bankers.
In contrast, Italian Deputy Minister for Agriculture Gianpaolo Dozzo said clearly, "We cannot stay on Blair's side. Dozzo, a member of Lega Nord, shows that the Italian government is split on the Blair recipe.
Dozzo calls for a return to the original mechanism of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), which entitled farmers to government monies according to production levels. In 2003, a new concept was introduced, which finances farmers according to income, independent of whether they produce or not. "In five or six years, the producer-farmer in Europe could be an endangered species, and food would be almost completely imported. The CAP must be reviewed, going back to at least a mixed system of funding."
Farmers not only feed our people, Dozzo said, but "they defend the land. We know very well that uncultivated land is exposed to meteorological risks. Therefore the problem is broad and we cannot stay on the side of Blair. Great Britain, in its agricultural and trade policies, is more and more oriented to globalized consumptions and extreme internationalization of the market. Not accidentally, the UK is the European state which relies most on importing its food products from outside the EU."