At the meeting of the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left Party on 26-27 January 2019 in Brussels, the top candidates for the European elections were voted. In addition, the election platform was confirmed with the following title:
For a progressive exit from the crisis. Vote left in the European Elections.
Gregor Gysi, President of the European Left declares:
With the candidacy of Violeta Tomic from our Slovenian member party Levica, we have a representative of an Eastern European party from a country that has come through a difficult period of transformation. Violeta is Vice-Coordinator of Levica, a member of the Slovenian Parliament and General Repporteur for LGBT at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In addition, I am delighted that we have been able to win with the former Secretary General of the Metalworkers’ Union of Belgium (MWB-FTGB) Nico Cue, a fighting voice for the workers and their unions. He is one of the most important trade unionists in Belgium and Europe.
With these two candidates, we want to make a clear offer to the people of Europe, because we are on the side of those who do not accept the growing contradiction between wealth and poverty. The social question is the key issue of our time. The credibility of policies depends, in large part, on their ability to redistribute wealth to the benefit of the poorer classes. We have to prevent a militaristic EU. Another important issue is environmental sustainability in social responsibility. Especially the new youth movement against climate change and for a deliberate confrontation with the consequences of wrong political decisions for the next generation is for us a central point. For a Europe of the people, not of capital!
Double Interview with Violeta & Nico:
What do you think about European Election in 2019 in the context of the right-wing shift in Europe. What do you think about the role of the Conservatives and Social Democrats?
Violeta: The upcoming elections might turn into a referendum on the very existence of the European Union, it´s a crucial one. Over the last few years, right-wing parties have had particular success in establishing themselves and building networks. It is clear that today’s European Union, with its dogma of the internal market and associated neo-liberal policies, has played a major part in this development. If it is to have a future, the EU has to be linked once more to social welfare and peace initiatives. It can only survive if it is supported by the majority of people in its Member States. And to win their support, it will have to shift its priorities from repressive fiscal pacts and austerity towards building a social, ecological and democratic Union that works for all.
Nico: Our experience with large coalitions of social democrats and conservatives in Europe proves that conservatives are in crisis and social democrats have largely faded into insignificance. Labour market reforms f.ex. that are currently being enacted in France with the associated dismantling of workers’ rights are not going to stop society lurching to the right.
What for a role have the Ventotene Manifesto, which was written by antifascists Alterio Spinelli for you political work in context of the European Union?
Violeta: The Ventotene Manifesto must be both a requirement and an assignment for us. The manifesto deals with the “The Crisis of Modern Civilization” and the “Post-war Tasks: European Unification”. Right-wing populists are banking on the disintegration and break-up of the EU. In our election platform we propose another way. We want to build Europe on a new basis of solidarity that respects the sovereignty of peoples. Our goal is to bring fresh hope. A new quest for cooperation and solidarity at the European level, in the service of our people and the people of the world. The Manifesto of the European Left proposes a democratic, social, environmental and peaceful basis for society.
Do you think we will need a new Sustainable Development Pact to replace the Stability and Growth Pact?
Nico: In the EU, some 120 million people live in poverty and 21 million are unemployed. In some countries, unemployment has been above 20% for many years. The EU can only be saved if it focuses on creating social security and environmental sustainability. We propose a new model of economic and social development. We can no longer accept either the so-called structural reforms that are reducing the welfare state and workers’ rights, or the current proposals of European institutions to deepen the economic and monetary union that do not respond to key issues of reducing inequality, poverty and unemployment.
Violeta: Therefore we have concrete proposals. First we need a re-democratisation of the European Central Bank (ECB) including employment goals and we stand for the implementation for a public investment program in socially important areas shall be prioritized. We consider it fundamental to reduce working hours without loss of income and we want to guarantee that welfare systems ensure full levels of dignity for all residents, securing adequate salaries and universal access to pensions and introducing general and concrete measures against the increasing uncertainty and poverty.
Do you think there is a need for reforming the Treaties for example by adopting a new Charter for sovereign European democracy with a special focus on public control and accountability?
Nico: The EU’s underlying treaties place the emphasis on market freedoms and everything else is subordinate. This has to be corrected. We want to confront and change the European treaties, which are based on the principles of competitiveness, competition, deregulation, and liberalization. This is the only available democratic path. This correction is difficult, but the difficulty cannot be a serious objection to such a policy. We might be called naive – so be it. It is not the job of the Left to do easy things.
Violeta: The struggle against the economically powerful has never been easy and it never will be. People who call for a retreat into nationalism are running away from the difficulties of the struggle. Let us be courageous, let us fight for a better, more democratic, social and peaceful Europe.
What is your position on the pre-eminence of social rights, education and collective bargaining over the freedoms for capital?
Nico: Secure and extend workers’ rights, trade union freedoms, and social rights, strengthen the collective bargaining power of trade unions, implement concrete measures to combat social dumping. We support the introduction of a social protocol in the EU Treaties as proposed by the Trade Union Network Europe, to protect fundamental trade union freedoms, rights and collective agreements.
Violeta: A social protocol needs to clarify that fundamental social rights override economic freedoms, aiming to eradicate social dumping in the EU internal market. We stand for ensuring social rights for residents and immigrants, preventing the latter from being the scapegoat of the system.
Do you support the idea of a pan-European conference for peace and collective security to reject war?
Violeta: Peace must be one of the cornerstones of the EU. This is contradicted by the proposed Defence Fund and the EU’s pandering to NATO in terms of security policy. We defend peace and political dialogue against violence and military coercion. The historical profile and geopolitical situation of our continent demand a concept of independent peace and security as well as the creation of sustainable, good-faith relations. We resist any armaments policy designed to militarize the EU, and instead develop policies to ensure nuclear disarmament and the dismantling of the anti-missile shield. Divest from weapons and devote such funds to education for peace.
What is your position on the implementation of environmentally friendly policies and sustainable strategies to reverse the hazardous effects of climate change – on our societies, economies, public health, and environment?
Nico: Capitalist production develops technology and combines it in various social and economic processes in order to make profit. This is causing most of the ecological problems we face. For us the ecological and the industrial change are two sides of the same medal. We therefore want to localize and convert industrial production in Europe, develop short production and consumption circuits to minimize the use of resources; we need a low-cost and green solution energy poverty. Search for profit becomes a search of the weakest and least protected, exploiting the environment and the workers of developing countries. The well-being of nature and of humans should always come before profits of the capital. We proposed therefore a new model for ecological development with this concrete steps:
We stand for prevention of privatization of natural resources and make public the production and distribution of energy; as well as combat energy poverty by creating a fundamental right of access to energy and water, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Fight climate change by developing true renewable energies and energy savings, improvement of public transport, and fighting against new so-called market solutions to carbon emissions.
What do you think on gender equality at work and in all aspects of life by means of binding gender mainstreaming for EU policy?
Violeta: The increase in inequality between men and women in Europe is still a structural problem, in which the sexism produced by the patriarchal system permeates every social sphere, thereby limiting and undermining the quality of life of women. Economic empowerment of women through the promotion of policies to encourage a better work/life balance, and of public plans for education and re-education in equality between men and women. In order to achieve this, an expansion of public employment policies is essential, as is the promotion and development of social policies.
Do you support the idea of a common European framework for fighting tax evasion and money laundering?
Nico: It is time to offer Europeans a common economic, social, democratic and peaceful future. A Europe of the people, not of banks and corporations. We need regulation of the financial markets and a fundamental shift in the role of the European Central Bank. Financial speculation must be stopped, tax evasion combated, and tax havens dried up. The best ways to facilitate this are the democratic control of financial markets and the public, democratic ownership of banks. A financial transaction tax has to be imposed. In order to find resources for real social and redistributive policies, a tax reform with a minimum tax for big companies is necessary as well as measures against tax evasion. We propose a public “country by country reporting” defining obligations of full transparency for the strategies of the big companies acting in Europe.
Do you support a shared European migration and asylum policy based on humanity and solidarity under a duly reformed Dublin system?
Violeta: It is high time for the reasons behind the flow of refugees to be properly identified and combated. One way of doing this is to create an economic basis through investment and trade so that, for example, African economies are integrated into the global value chain. But the EU is linking financial aid to the closure of refugee routes and is prepared to make agreements with inhumane regimes such as in Eritrea, Chad and Libya. This is a clear step backwards to neo-colonial behaviour. But closing migration routes does not solve any problems, nor does it help to combat the causes of the refugee crisis. This is the direction that the FRONTEX border regime has been following for many years, but it is the wrong one. Preserving the right to asylum; creating legal opportunities for actually exercising this right; and systematically combating the military, economic, environmental and social causes of flight.