The Guardian April 19, 2000


Lisbon:
European jobs summit

by Brian Denny

Last month's so-called European jobs summit in Lisbon became a neo-liberal 
feeding frenzy, promising 20 million jobs through mass privatisation.

The speeding up of the privatisation of the telecommunications sector, 
agreed to at the summit, has long been one of the mantra's of the European 
Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), the lobbying group of Europe's largest 
corporations.

Launched in 1985, the ERT virtually wrote the blueprint for the single 
market and the euro and has now moved on to dreaming up strategies for 
privatising every sector within it.

The European Union (EU) strategy on pensions raised at the summit is also 
an uncanny echo of the ERT pension report released just prior to the 
gathering in Portugal.

The report, European Pensions: An appeal for reform, urged Brussels 
to tell member states to lift retirement ages, stop early retirement and 
encourage individuals to save for their retirement through tax breaks and 
private pensions schemes.

"If they are not reformed soon, public pension systems in many EU member 
states pose a threat to the competitiveness of the European economy", the 
report said.

The ERT is very enthusiastic about EU enlargement as a way for their 
companies to expand into new markets.

Percy Barnevik recently paid a visit to Warsaw as the head of the ERT 
taskforce reviewing the enlargement of the EU into Poland, the Czech 
Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania 
and Slovakia.

He made it clear that this project, like EMU before it, was a deeply 
political process in which power must be wrested from national governments 
and placed with corporate structures like the EU.

Mr Barnevik, who also represents the interests of the Swedish Wallenburg 
empire which collaborated with the Nazis, said that big companies will 
benefit from access to new markets and the availability of skilled low cost 
labour.

The ERT report on expansion also contains a long list of "weak points" 
among the candidate countries, such as restrictions on foreigners 
purchasing properties and the slow move to sell off all the family silver.

"Transitional periods should be only limited and short, and candidate 
countries need to improve their tax regimes, speed up privatisation, ease 
bureaucratic delays, reduce restrictions on land purchase, and upgrade 
infrastructure", it says.

Much-needed foreign investment is one thing but ordering the dismantling of 
political and democratic structures to accommodate the needs of a few TNCs 
both east and west reveals that this is more than a simple case of economic 
"restructuring".

In order to protect their new found interests, Corporate Europe is also 
keen to create a 60,000-strong army to "rapidly react" to "crises" inside 
and outside fortress Europe with or without NATO.

As External Commissioner Chris Patten said last month, eastern Europe is 
now "our backyard".

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Morning Star (extract)

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