Matt Carthy MEP speaks on globalisation, democracy & the EU at Dundalk debate
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy addressed a public debate on the topic of globalisation, work, democracy and the EU last Thursday evening in Dundalk, organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA). Carthy spoke alongside Junior Minister Michael D’Arcy, Siptu Chief Economist Marie Sherlock and IIEA Chief Economist Dan O’Brien.
Addressing the audience, Carthy said: “Free-market ideology has proved to be resilient in the EU. It was damaged by the crisis and its aftermath, though it withstood it all the same. But back in 1992, when European states signed up to the Maastricht Treaty, neoliberalism was the only show in town. It was the era of Thatcher and Reagan, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the ‘end of history’.
“The Maastricht Treaty enshrined the so-called convergence criteria – a set of rules members and potential members of the common currency were obliged to follow. So the legal treaties from this era underpinning the Eurozone and the EU enshrine permanent austerity – meaning the post-war role of the state in distributing wealth and providing social welfare has been drastically reduced. The Stability and Growth Pact and Fiscal Compact make these rules even stricter.
“A former German Chancellor once argued for European integration as ‘a system of order that exerted what one might call an anonymous coercion on the behaviour of nation-states’.
“We can see this ‘anonymous coercion’ at work in the EU, through the division of powers between the Commission, the Council and the weakest body, the Parliament, and through the actions of the totally unaccountable ECB, which I have referred to in the past as Europe’s unelected government.
“This system of semi-integration allows EU leaders to impose policies that people would never vote for, and at the same time it allows national politicians to have a scapegoat to point to when implementing unpopular policies.
“I also believe the ‘new generation’ of free trade agreements such as CETA and Mercosur the EU will increase the alienation and distrust that has already surged in many member states as a result of several decades of corporate globalisation, which has disempowered the vast majority of people and enriched a tiny minority.
“The rise of the far right, Trump, Brexit – all of these movements have exploited the genuine and valid concerns of working people who have suffered this impact; people who have not received the benefits of free trade and globalisation, who in fact, have lost their jobs and their faith in politics.
“There is still major potential to organise here in Ireland at the state level to defend and protect social and labour rights. We need to do it at the EU and global level too, but part of that is demanding the Irish government represent the interests of the majority and not the few. The reality is that where our struggles can be most effective is at the local and state level where communities, unions and social movements can act together in defence of their rights.”