Kairos Hearing 1994.
Comments and questions on the responses by witnesses/experts
Now we have reached the point for questions and comments on the responses by the witnesses and experts. Mr. Engelberts, please.
I regret that Mr. Wolf wasn't here when the Acting Director General walked out this morning because he didn't want to talk to us because we were day-dreaming. I guess if he had listened to you he probably would have had a heart attack. But, I mean, I always was thinking I voted for the wrong party. But, of course, one thing is having some wishes, the other thing is how do you realize them if — as your colleague says — there is no political will to act. Now, how are we going to get that political will amongst those people? Do we need a "Chiapas" like in Mexico, do we have to riot in the streets? What is it we have to do? At least as to Chiapas, finally the Inter-American Development Bank noticed that they have to give some money to the social infrastructure. In Europe we talk a lot about the "Social Chapter" and the social dimension. I think, whenever the use the word "social" it is an excuse to do nothing or to cover it with papers. So, how are you going to get that political will to change the situation we are in now?
Frieder Otto Wolf:
Well, of course there is only one way: to build a political alliance, broad enough, strong enough to impose that will. And, I think, there are elements of this alliance present in the political sphere. There are those parts of the trade unions who have begun to understand that they are not just there to defend the specific rights of their members who are still employed, but also those of their still or potential members who are thrown out to unemployment, and who have begun to understand that unsustainable production is not in the interest of the labour class. There is a second element: a number of ecological, health or consumers'organisations who have begun to understand that what they want cannot be achieved at the cost of social exclusion. And, of course, there is a third element: there is a number of people with a democratic liberal tradition who have begun to understand that democracy and individual freedom — in a meaningful sense, not just in the sense of the freedom of one's bank account — cannot be achieved within a society that is split by social antagonisms. And therefore, I think, there is also an element coming from the so-called middle classes who are prepared to join in the fight for a new social treaty and a new type of development in Western Europe. Of course, there are still other factors, as the churches and the solidarity movements and the women's organisations. So, there is a number of alliances we have begun to build. And the fact that in Germany the Green Party has come back in force is a symptom of this, and of course there are other parties who are in the process, and in the parliament we have to develop the dialogue between those forces and, very concreetly, become a link between the different political currents, especially the European trade union movement.
I would like to answer Mr. Engelberts' question by saying that in my three years of mandate at the European Parliament I have often been extremely saddened by the absence of trade unions in the debate. The companies do the lobbying but we don't hear much from the trade unions. So we have a Europe whose constitution is essentially constructed on the economic dimension, a stunted social Europe, a stunted environmental Europe. We have just had four railway strikes in Europe, which happened completely separately. Why can't European organisations act together?
I would like to stress one point which has already been mentioned this morning, and that is the issue of Cuba. We were informed by the parliamentarians that the European Parliament decided to dissociate itself from the boycott. In the Netherlands, and it seems to me also in Belgium, hardly anyone knows that such a resolution was taken by the parliament. And as far as I am informed, neither of the member state's governments actually followed this resolution. What intends the parliament to do about this? Why not use the media? The public ought to know what is going on in the parliament so that it can urge the governments to meet the decisions taken by the parliament. Very often the European Union is just used for developing progressive resolutions and procedures which the member states themselves do not dare to develop. As a first step, this has to be announced to the public. And as a second step we have to put pressure on our governments in order to avoid that they make use of the EU as an alibi and, at the same time, act along the same lines as the US do with regard to Cuba.
Brigitte Ernst de la Graete:
In this particular case of Cuba, I think that the action of Parliament has been quite effective for two reasons: firstly because by exerting pressure Parliament has succeeded in establishing aid to Cuba, which I don't think would have been written into the budget if not for Parliament, and then because there was also an economic interest in doing so. European business is not really interested in the Toricelli law, and so there we found some allies.
It's also perhaps something that should be mentioned when we talk about political action, what is essential when a suggestion is made, when we want to change things, is that each party should have an interest in it. So, how can we make sure everyone can profit? Either by really frightening them by what could happen if things don't change, or by showing them that if you analyse things under an alternative perspective you arrive at a different result. What I'm trying to explain is that using convergence criteria is a way of seeing how reality will culminate in a particular result, but this result is not a good one. Because if you take other criteria, you can see this result is not positive. If you make a different analysis of the same reality, you can make the result turn out positive, economically, socially and environmentally. I am convinced there is a way, in a host of areas, of advancing propositions, of finding solutions in which there really won't be any losers.
Thank you. A brief question from the audience. You have the microphone.
Louis Van Geyt:
My name is Louis van Geyt, I am a former Belgian elected member and I work principally with Mrs. Ernst de la Graete in a watchdog committee for Belgian participation in the European Council. We have just had, on the eve of the Corfu Summit, a meeting with the representatives of the Belgian contingency to examine a few of the problems, in particular those which we are looking at today. I will take a liberty and tell you that I believe the main difficulty right now, from the point of view of all the problems we are looking at in North-South relations — and East-West — is that the majority of populations in the European Union are still not convinced that it is in their interest to remedy the present situation. I think the main concern of all those involved, who are participating in this fight, and in this effort, is that we really must prove it is in the best interests of our own people, in our own countries. I will argue that the central problem, and I will maintain this, is a problem which on a world scale is extremely close to a problem which exists in the heart of the European Union. When there is free movement of capital, when there is free movement of initiative and business, if at the same time there are no measures taken against social dumping, against ecological dumping, against tax dumping, then everyone is being fooled.
Consequently, I believe the fundamental area in which we must try to achieve greater clarity, is to make people understand the importance, and realise the extent to which the interests of the people of the South and the East are on the same wavelength as most of the people here in Europe, of precisely those measures which combat dumping, which impose clauses to ensure that instead of differences increasing, they progressively diminish. This should obviously be brought about through negotiation, specifically the social clauses, as it is such a delicate matter on which feelings between, should I say, the progressives of the North and the progressives of the South are sometimes a little difficult to reconcile.
There is another question by Dr. Konrad Raiser.
I would like to address this question basically to Mr. Delcroix, but perhaps to the other two members of the parliament as well. In this afternoon's presentations the very crucial dimension of the special link of the EU countries with the ACP region has not really been entered. It would seem that the developments towards European Monetary Union will have a very immediate effect on the relationships with the ACP countries. I would like to know to what extent this is part of the discussion in the parliament since through the different Lom‚ conventions certain dependencies have been created. Countries in the ACP region have structured their economies in order to fit into the framework of the Lom‚ conventions which have at least at their beginning claimed to offer a new model of development cooperation. Now, we are far from those claims, that is agreed among us, but with the conventions responsibilities have been incurred, and there is no way for the European Community to extricate itself from these responibilities. So, whatever decision the parliament takes, does affect the whole ACP region as well, and therefore there is a global perspective to what we are discussing here in terms of social cohesion in Europe which I think should be kept in mind.
I'd like to say quite quickly that the problem of relations with the ACP has been relatively little discussed or raised within the economic and monetary Commission. This will not astonish you, for there is a compartmentalisation inside Europe which unfortunately means that social and environmental concerns and Third World issues are offloaded onto other organisations. The weaker Europe becomes, and I think unfortunately that's what is happening, Europe is becoming weaker, the less it will be in a position to help others, especially the ACP countries. So, it is fundamental that we can express our solidarity with the weakest members of our society. The vision I have and which I wish to share with my friends is:
We have a first circle, a circle of credibility, which is our action towards those countries in Europe, I'm referring to the weakest, basically the least developed, which is ultimately a window for the rest of the world to look in. If we do not properly succeed in allowing them to develop, I fail to see what credibility we will have outside Europe.
The second circle, is that of the neighbouring countries, whether they be the countries of Eastern Europe or of the Mediterranean Basin.
The third circle, and I do not intend to introduce any sort of hierarchy, though that's rather how it is perceived in any case, is basically the countries of the ACP, those belonging to the Lom‚ pact, etc.
But I fear that sadly, the more time goes on, the less effective we will be in the sense of the solidarity which we should be expressing and which seems very important to me. So, we are talking in the context of globalisation. I told you just now that globalisation has not been achieved as much as we would like to think, and that when we look at the dependence of Europe on the rest of the world we become a lot more humble than we usually show, because it is between the European countries that relations are clearly the most intense, and if we allow these relations to weaken we will no longer be in a position to help others.
I propose to end this session. Is it agreed?
Brigitte Ernst de la Graete:
I would like to be very brief and very rude. I think we have a problem now, and this problem is that aid, development aid, has lost its relevance, its political weight. The Commission's strategy now, in the review of the Lom‚ Agreements, is to say, "All the money we have put in has achieved nothing. Now we must be more effective, and this is also what our populations are demanding". So we use pretexts, like the environment, democracy and human rights, to limit, like a sieve, to limit aid to development cooperation. And I believe that your role and our role should be to say, not, "We should give less because they are useless anyway, because they don't know how to use it properly", but to say, "This money should go to the people who need it the most. Do not make the envelope lighter, redefine who are to be the recipients in these countries. Talk less with the governments, more with the people".
Let us applaud the parliamentarians. Thank you very much.