Kairos Hearing 1994.
Comments and questions on the responses by witnesses/experts
Mr. Petrella has explained the reasons why he did not walk away. We are very thankful for the contribution. I am looking now again to the experts and the witnesses because they are the first, maybe to give a reaction or to ask questions, and then I go to the general audience. First I am looking to the experts...
I would like to say that I'm very pleased that at least in the Commission we also have people with refreshing thoughts — after some of the earlier experiences we had. I only hope that this study will be read, not only by the members of the Parliament but by some of the people who are also involved in policy work, because I think it's a very good document which needs further distribution, and I am very pleased that this at least is also an aspect of the Commission.
Now I go to the audience. I see you there in the back, please.
I am Boudewijn Wegerif from the "F"reningen Friends" Association in Sweden. Mr. van Tuyll said: Economics is not about money, it is about the allocation of scarce resources to maximise wealth. How does he define wealth if not in money-priced terms? Secondly, Herbert Marcuse argued brilliantly in "Eros and Civilisation": to include the concept of scarcity in the definition of money or economics is to turn an assumption into a brute fact of life — in a self-fulfilling prophecy way. So, I suggest with respect to another healthier definition of economics: Economics is about what we do with resources in communities and not necessarily through the medium of money.
Sammy van Tuyll van Serooskerken:
Maybe a short remark. Thank you for your contribution. I said, economics is not essentially about money because people always say: money is what it's all about. It's not about money. It's about what is behind money. Of course, money does play a role in the economy and especially a monetary economy, maybe I'm a bit too theoretical now, but a monetary economy is more efficient than a barter economy. Okay, this is the point I want to make and it is clear for everyone.
Thank you. More question from the audience.
Person from the audience:
I am a member of a group called "The poor side of the Netherlands", and I very much appreciated Mr. Petrella's contribution, especially as to the redistribution of wealth. In terms of the programmes the EU is running on the poverty issue I would like to ask Mr. Petrella what he thinks we have to do to get the so-called "Poverty 4" programme implemented?
It is not the only government which is rejecting the renewal of the Poverty Programme, unfortunately, and I myself have asked me why some member countries in the EU are pushing to stopping the renewal of Poverty Programme in type of the former EC which is, by the way, not very much rich: The "Poverty 3" number was given only ECU 80 millions. If you think how many billions we are spending for a common science and technology policy, you can consider how irrelevant the resources are that we have allocated to the entire poverty problem. And it is true that the entire poverty programme is at risk now because Germany and other countries do not want to renew it, arguing on the basis of the famous principle of subsidiarity, that is that the entire poverty action should not be done at European level, but should be done at city level, regional level, and national level. My personal opinion is that this is a very suspicious argument. I don't think that it is only at the level of cities, regions and countries that the poverty should be fought against, but also at European and global level because the reasons that have created poverty in Amsterdam or in London are the same reasons that continue to create poverty in Costa Rica, in Usbekistan, and other parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America.
So, I deplore with you, regret with you, the fact that in some countries this problem is at risk, and which shows that the EU is made up of countries which follow from time to time different policies. I think it is important to stress that in the last years there has been a shift in the policy priorities of the member countries of the EU, which have enormously favoured the principles of privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation and competitiveness. There are some other countries, which are becoming the minority, which still try to keep the former, or still think about a new alternative, but which sooner or later will just become as the other dominant countries. So, we have to be very cautious on it.
Also the Commission is an organisation which in many respects has always tried to reduce the intensity of speediness of the member countries towards privatisation, liberalisation, deregulation, and competitiveness. Sometimes I also suggest, don't kill the wrong pianist, don't shoot the wrong pianist. The right pianist whom you have to look at is the Council of Ministers, the member countries. The Commission sometimes follows the member countries in order to be political relevant and accepted, but there are a lot of people in the Commission, starting from our President, who try to fight against these tendencies. So, sometimes we need your support.
I would like to get back to a question which Mr. Padrao already referred to. My name is Grete Schaer and I am from Lower Saxony in Germany where the swine fever is currently causing havoc. On behalf of some peasants I work with I would like to ask why the vaccination of the pigs has been forbidden by the EU for the time being. This has devastating consequences, especially for the small farmers. So, my question is: What does the EU actually do for the small peasants?
I think there is a problem, since I don't know much about vaccinaton. I am a specialist in science, technology and economy, but vaccination I don't know. Does anybody else have an idea?
Yes. My name is Nico Verhaagen, and I work with the "Coordination of European Peasants" (Coordination Paysanne Europ‚enne/CPE). If I might put it like that, the decisive point is that due to the fact that the EU's agricultural policy enhances the concentration of means of production the pigs have to be carried throughout Europe in order to distribute them. This systematically spreads the swine fever all over the continent. So the question would be the following: Mr. Petrella, you said that social policy has to be given a priority treatment. As to this particular case, I think it is important that agricultural policy is not only dealt with at the level of the agricultural experts. All these agriculture-related issues like for instance development of rural areas or regional development in general, have to be dealt with at the same time instead of creating agricultural havoc in the first place and only then implementing a respective social policy. There has to be more cohesion in policy making. Do you agree, Mr. Petrella?
I share most of the points that are underlined in the questions about agricultural policy. I would just like to add an example. Now Portugal is importing tomatoes from the Netherlands, and Portugal is losing, step by step, its own crops, fruits — even fruits — and it seems that they import even eggs from Spain. This is one of the consequences of the development of some agricultural policies which are increasingly dominated by the privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation and competitiveness.
Sammy van Tuyll van Serooskerken:
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I think that tomatoes are growing more efficiently in Portugal than in the Netherlands, that is what I would think, except if you prevent market forces to let them go their way. I am very pleased with your response. It stresses that market forces lead to a more efficient economy.
Maybe I may generalise the question because I think a large part of the audience is a little bit puzzled by the different opinions among the Directorate General in Brussels. Mr. Petrella, I would like to ask you this question: Is this difference a consequence of the fact that research as such is not fully honoured in the midst of the European Commission, or is it basically a question of different styles of thinking, is it basically a paradigmatic problem which we meet here, that we have different styles of economic thinking, you happen to be on one side and others are on the other side. Or are both true?
Diversities in any democratic institution are a good expression of functioning. I am not surprised that the Commission, the institution that I belong to has people who have different opinions. And that these different opinions sometimes coincide with sectorial "compartmentalisation". This is a normal, good sign of the democratic functioning of an institution. Of course, when the Commission decides then the Commission takes alikes. We have commissioners and these commissioners represent the different constituencies, in terms of political constituency, competence etc. and it is absolutely normal, I'm not astonished to see that they fight among themselves like in a government and the different members of the government representing different political parties fight against each other. And then there is a decision. Of course, when there is a decision the DG and the Commission, we all are obliged to apply the decision that has been taken. But equally, because it has been taken also by the Council of Ministers. Still, I think that there is a situation where we in the Commission have some margins of manoeuvre in the sense of expressing. I don't consider that I become a citizen only after 7.30 when I leave the office. I have ended to be a citizen when I enter the office at 7.30 in the morning. And between 7.30 in the morning and 7.30 in the evening I am no longer citizen and become a citizen during the night. So, I think this shows, it is a pity to my opinion that sometimes the other opinions are prevailing, but this is another story.
There is space for one concluding question from the audience, a final question.
Person from the audience:
Thank you very much. In December of last year we had the alternative economic summit of the EC. And there I saw also Mr. Petrella, but perhaps it is nice to tell also our friends from the South. I thought it would be a big thing, the alternative economic summit of the EC, but there were only about 40 people. Some good people from Denmark, some women. And I would invite our people here, afterwards, to take a little walk in the surroundings of this European Parliament, as I did during lunchtime, because then you can see what is happening in Europe and what you perhaps do not know. If you just walk in the street here and see this repression of life in the name of development. And I must add that this is a development of men. I never heard anybody talking about how colonisation destroyed the structures in the North in the last centuries, especially the position of women. Here in Belgium in the last century the first woman who studied law had to sit in a cage in the University and she was not allowed to work. So, I also want to say something from the women's point of view that this is really also the blind spot in the eye of the North. And even for Kairos, I asked a little bit during the last days while they were preparing these meetings and these days, and I said: "What did women say?" And there was one woman who said one sentence.
I want to thank the audience for their important contribution to this session. I want to thank as well the representatives of the Commission who have been so helpful in this last part of the session.
Let us give them a hand!