DiEM25’s State of the Union

A lifeless ritual copied from the United States

In early September, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his last speech on the state of the Union — a lifeless ritual that has been copied from the United States. The speech serves primarily to the self-congratulate the European Commission, and this year’s speech was no different. Junker announced that he would “love Europe forever” and was treated to a standing ovation.

But DiEM25 takes this show as an occasion to examine the real situation in the EU, on the basis of the six EU core values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union.

1. Human dignity:

The EU’s blatant disregard for human dignity can be seen in our streets and on the seas.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning EU has already drowned more than 1560 migrants in the Mediterranean in 2018 — many of whom were children. Member-state governments are still fighting the refugees instead of ending the wars that caused them to flee. In Europe, it is the passport that decides whose dignity is worth protection.

But it is not only refugees who have to fight for their dignity: since 2014 the number of homeless people in Germany, one of the richest countries in the world, has almost doubled to 860,000. Their insecurity in terms of basic shelter is an affront to EU’s professed values.

2. Freedom:

Key freedoms — of expression, association, and self-determination — are severely constrained in the EU.

A new police law in Lower Saxony regulates the interception of telephone conversations, e-mails and chat messages. The use of spyware is greatly simplified.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Catalan citizens would like to see the possibility of a referendum on Catalonia’s independence. Although this involves constitutional difficulties, instead of mediating, the European Union is either silent or takes a biased position in favour of the government in Madrid. The citizens of Catalonia have the right to be supported by the EU to resolve the matter in a democratic way.

In Hungary, the freedom of the press was curtailed by abolishing source protection. In addition, a number of government-critical media have had their licenses revoked.

3. Democracy:

One of the clearest trends in the European Union is the erosion of democracy and its institutions.

In Poland, the right-wing ruling party PiS is setting a new threshold of 16.5 percent in the electoral law for the next European elections, effectively blocking opposition parties from making a challenge.

In Hungary, after a constitutional reform, Viktor Orban had the constituencies cut so that his Fidesz party would gain 11% more seats in parliament without generating more votes.

In Greece, the troika, which was never democratically elected by the Greeks, has pulled the strings to determine the country’s fiscal policy until 2060.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament still has no right of initiative.

And contrary to the Guidelines of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe — which stipulates that there should not be a change in the electoral law in the twelve months prior to an election — the European Parliament decided on a blocking clause for the European Parliament elections in Germany, which would make millions of votes ineffective.

4. Equality:

There is — put simply — no equality in Europe. The minimum wage in Luxembourg is €11.55 and in France €9.88, workers in Poland have to be satisfied with €2.85. In Bulgaria its even lower: €1.57.

The per capita income in Denmark is ten times higher than in Romania. There has hardly been an approximation of living conditions.

At least 1.5 million Greeks live in extreme poverty with less than 177 euros a month. That is about every seventh inhabitant of Greece.

Irrespective of this, there is a lack of conceptually penetrating equality between men and women in all European countries.

5. Rule of law:

Despite feeble attempts to rein in member-states, the rule of law is in decline.

In Poland, a new media law allows the government to decide directly on management positions in the public media.

In addition, the Polish Constitutional Court lost much of its authority: for example, instead of a 1/3 majority of constitutional judges, a 2/3 majority is now needed to stop laws against constitutional violations.

But even as legal systems come under increasing strain, the justice sector is drastically underfunded in almost all EU Member States. In Italy, for example, the average court time is 527 days.

6. Human and minority rights:

Migrants, newcomers, and minorities have far too few protections in the EU today.

In Austria, the governing party which calls for a “concentrated accommodation of asylum seekers”.

In Italy, an anti-EU government ruled by Lega Nord and its Secretary of the Interior Matteo Salvini, calls for violence against migrants and racial segregation in Italy’s public services.

According to Amnesty International, Slovakia operates “state racism” against Sinti and Roma.

In Germany, almost half of all lawsuits against rejected asylum claims are successful and thus wrong in the first instance to the detriment of the asylum seekers.

What can we conclude from this set of corrections to Junker’s triumphalist speech? The state of the Union is weak, with threats of disintegration on all sides. Many people do not see the European Union as a visionary project for peace, prosperity and legal certainty across Europe, but as a fragmented, opaque and unapproachable project for the economically strong European states.

DiEM25 is campaigning for a New Deal that will end austerity policies in the southern states, establish a solidarity programme for those who are lagging behind in economic progress, invest in Green Transition in order to transform Europe into a realm of prosperity and economic justice.

We are committed to strengthening national constitutional courts by linking them to the Copenhagen Commission in order to more effectively defend the challenged core values.

We want to abolish Article 51 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which allows governments to ignore the Charter without having to face penalties.

We bundle progressive forces across Europe to jointly defend the attacks by nationalists, right-wing populists and rabble-rouser on our core values.

Carpe DiEM!
Thomas Geiseler
Oct, 2018, DSC News Member-contributed

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