European Union austerity policies

This video, recorded in Greece, says about itself:

Austerity and Anger: Protests Against Syriza’s EU Deal

1 April 2015

On January 25, the leftist party Syriza emerged victorious in Greece’s national elections. Days later, Alex Tsipras, the new 40-year-old prime minister, formed a coalition government with a strong mandate to renegotiate Greece’s bailout terms and reduce its large debt pile, built up over the five-year financial crisis.

Tsipras and his team then engaged in bitter negotiations with the country’s international lenders. Athens sought to scrap the harsh measures attached to the bailout by describing the plight of austerity-hit Greeks as a “humanitarian crisis.” On February 20, a deal was clinched. The country’s loan agreement was extended by four months, giving Greece more breathing space to negotiate a better pact in the future, but also forcing Syriza to climb down on its pre-election promises.

Despite the deal, Greece is still broke and needs European loans to avoid bankruptcy. The new government’s popularity is slowly declining and uncertainty as to how Syriza will live up to its many promises remains.

Facing backlash from its own supporters, Syriza’s deal with the European Union has sparked angry demonstrations in Athens. VICE News attended the protests and spoke to people disillusioned with the current situation and the party’s pre-election pledges.

IMF walks out of Greece bailout talks. Lender says its negotiating team are going home to Washington due to a lack of progress in narrowing key differences with Athens: here.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

The case for radical change in Europe can’t be left to the nationalist right

Seumas Milne

Greece’s punishment and Cameron’s referendum games underline who really calls the shots in the EU

Wednesday 10 June 2015 20.57 BST

For the true face of the European Union, look no further than the war now being waged on Greece by its troika of euro creditors. No people have suffered more from the eurozone crisis than the Greeks. The victim of rapacious European banks, a corrupt elite, and a half-baked, lopsided currency union, Greece has paid a pulverising price for the financial crash and eurozone meltdown.

After bailing out Europe’s banks, the European establishment handed the job of punishing Greece to the European Commission, central bank and IMF. Five years later, ravaged by a US 1930s-style depression and 25% wage cuts in the service of self-defeating austerity and unrepayable debts, the Greeks rebelled. In January they voted for the leftwing Syriza party to halt the troika-imposed programme destroying the country.

Five months on and the Syriza government is being ground down by an implacable European elite. Elected on a platform of ditching austerity while keeping the euro, the Syriza prime minister Alexis Tsipras has been forced to retreat by the Brussels moneymen and their political masters. One by one, Syriza’s red lines have been crossed, from debt cancellation to privatisation.

But the troika wants more: pension cuts, VAT increases from food to electricity, faster debt repayments. Syriza fired a warning shot by refusing to pay 300m euros to the IMF last week, but the crunch is coming later this month and Tsipras has warned that failure to agree a rescue package would spell “the beginning of the end of the eurozone”.

The signs are that Germany and the troika are prepared to face the Greeks down. Despite overwhelming evidence that crippling austerity has led to a mushrooming of debt that can never be repaid, the EU elite will not even hear of a realistic write-off. Greece must pay up or its liquidity lifeline will be cut and it will be forced out of the eurozone.

What’s become clear in recent weeks is that the masters of the eurozone are not even prepared to provide Tsipras with a figleaf. From the Brussels perspective, Greece must cave and be seen to cave. Otherwise, other eurozone states that have suffered the troika treatment will get ideas. Even if the day of reckoning is postponed, Syriza must be seen to fail if the rise of other anti-austerity parties such as Spain’s Podemos is to be halted.

Tsipras has cards of his own if he wants to play them. He can trigger new elections or call a referendum. Capitulation would destroy Syriza, and Greeks are divided on whether the government should bend the knee. It could still default and leave the euro. Grexit would certainly be painful, but less so than destructive austerity without end.

It could also lead to an unravelling of the eurozone. But for large parts of southern Europe in particular, restructuring this cockeyed currency union, which has entrenched economic stagnation, is anyway essential. The Greek radicals hoped they could change Europe. But their experience has underlined how deep is the elite’s resistance to genuine reform.

It’s not just that the rich EU states don’t want to pay for the fiscal transfers essential to make currency union work. They have given austerity and a shopworn neoliberal economic model the force of treaty in the interests of Europe’s banks and corporations. And far from bringing people together, the eurozone is driving Europeans apart.

But what’s true of the eurozone is also true of the wider European Union, where privatisation, deregulation and lack of democratic accountability have been built into successive treaties. That’s epitomised by the secret EU-US negotiations over the TTIP trade deal – a debate in the European parliament had to be called off on Wednesday because of the scale of opposition – which would enforce “liberalisation” through corporate arbitration tribunals.

It’s a long way from the days of former commission president Jacques Delors, when the European Union was sold to a British labour movement, punch drunk from Margaret Thatcher’s onslaught, as a “social Europe” that would deliver social and employment rights to sweeten the pill of the corporate-controlled single market.

Even some of the modest protections that were eventually delivered (the most dramatic was the guarantee of four weeks’ holiday) have since been watered down by the “free market” judgments of the European court of justice. But the corporate juggernaut has thundered on, driving the Brussels agenda.

If radical progressive change were on the cards in Britain – or any other European state, for that matter – the EU treaties enforcing free markets, privatisation and corporate privilege would be a serious obstacle. As it is, British governments have consistently used their influence in Brussels to intensify corporate “liberalisation” and protect the City interests which played such a central role in bringing the economy to its knees in the crash of 2008.

And when David Cameron kicks off his negotiations on Britain’s EU membership ahead of the planned in-out referendum, they certainly won’t be focused on democratisation, the protection of public services from private takeover, or the scope of state intervention in the economy. What he’ll be after instead are restrictions on EU migrants’ rights to claim in-work benefits, a few more treaty opt-outs and, as London mayor Boris Johnson made clear yesterday, an end to the “nonsensical” EU social rights that are actually popular in Britain.

Once a half-presentable package of regressive reforms has been assembled to appease the Tory party, it will then be put to a public vote, accompanied by a barrage of big business-led scaremongering about the economic consequences of voting no. With the entire establishment and both main opposition parties signed up to a blank cheque yes vote, there are likely to be no mainstream demands for progressive EU reform. And short of another breakdown in the eurozone, it’s hard to see such an orchestration delivering anything other than the endorsement Cameron wants.

But it’s essential that the case for radical change in Europe – and a break with its anti-democratic, corporate-controlled structures – is not abandoned to the right. The experience of Greece and other troika-blighted eurozone states has hammered home how far the EU is from the benign oasis of progressive internationalism its supporters claim.

As things stand, however, voters in Britain will next year be offered the choice of a yet more corporate-controlled EU, shorn of social protections – or withdrawal on the terms of the nationalist right. In the interests of both Britain and Europe, that needs to change, and quickly.

See also Jeremy Corbyn on this.

LABOUR MPs are preparing to launch a campaign calling on Britain to exit left from the European Union, the Morning Star can reveal. A group called Labour for Britain could be launched as soon as next week to start making a distinctive socialist case for quitting the pro-business Brussels body: here.

GREEK communists launched demonstrations in 59 cities yesterday against further austerity concessions to foreign creditors. Supporters gathered for a sit-in protest outside the Ministry of Finance in Athens’s Syntagma (Constitution) Square, opposite parliament. The demonstrators, led by communist-affiliated union federation Pame, draped a banner over the facade of the ministry building reading: “We have bled enough, we have paid enough”: here.

THOUSANDS of workers and students took part in marches held in several Greek cities last Thursday evening against any agreement which will continue the austerity policies between the Greek government and the EC-IMF-ECB troika: here.

It is instructive to compare the treatment of Greece with that of another bankrupt country, Ukraine. In the same edition as the article citing European officials on Greece, the Financial Times has an editorial demanding a diametrically opposed policy in Ukraine, calling on creditors to forgive much of its debt: here.

Britain: DON’T let David Cameron use “EU reform” to slash workers’ rights, Frances O’Grady will tell European Parliament president Martin Schulz today. Meeting Mr Schulz in Brussels this afternoon, the TUC general secretary will say he must “stand up” to the Tory Prime Minister’s demands. “We reject the false choice between leaving the EU or staying in an EU stripped of protections for workers, consumers and the environment,” she said before the meeting: here.

BRITAIN could decide on EU membership if it had with the full facts about shady EU-US trade deal TTIP, Labour MP John McDonnell declared yesterday, writes Luke James. Mr McDonnell attempted to amend the Tories’ EU referendum Bill as it reached committee stage in the Commons. His changes, which were not accepted, would have required the government to publish a report on the consequences for Britain of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) at least 10 weeks before the referendum on Britain’s membership: here.

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