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Who pulls the strings?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer left the Tory Party's Manchester rally for Brussels to attend an Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) meeting of EU finance ministers.

This is one of several EU councils consisting of ministers such as those for agriculture and transport. Council meetings are normally held monthly and in secret where decisions are mainly taken by qualified majority voting in which Britain has 29 votes out of 345.

If fiscal matters are voted upon at Ecofin the decision has to be unanimous.

Osborne, along with other EU finance ministers, agreed earlier this year that national budgets in the EU have to be submitted to Ecofin for approval. This overrides Parliament and subjugates Britain to the EU.

Since the Lisbon Treaty was put in place the 17 eurozone member states meet separately a day prior to Ecofin councils and is known as the Eurogroup.

When matters concerning the euro single currency are on the Ecofin agenda only the 17 eurozone ministers vote – no doubt all 27 ministers take part in the discussion.

Osborne has made clear he is urging the 17 finance ministers to press ahead with more integration. This is interfering in the internal affairs of other nation states and none of his business.

The chairman of Ecofin is the finance minister of the member state presiding over the EU.

Currently this is Poland with Denmark taking over in the six-monthly rotation in January.

Chairmen of the Eurogroup serve a five-year term. Currently this is the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean Claude Juncker, a former governor of the IMF and World Bank.

The current IMF managing director is the former French Finance Minister Christine Legarde.

Meanwhile most members of the Con-Dem Cabinet are themselves millionaires and include some who have their riches parked abroad in tax havens.

Britain and Denmark have an opt-out from joining the euro as agreed upon ratification of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.

Denmark is due to have a referendum on its opt-out of the single currency in 2012.

Danish ministers have made clear publicly that there will not be a referendum on this opt-out.

However, Britain is in the penultimate stage of joining the single currency and is subject to the rules of the EU Stability and Growth Pact.

This agreement includes severe restrictions on public-sector spending and government borrowing which several member states besides Greece, Ireland and Portugal have not adhered to.

Other offenders include Germany, France, Italy and Britain.

This pact is a key factor in the thrust towards privatisation, PFI and PPP to get institutions off government books.

This leaves future taxpayers high bills to pay off the hire purchase from privateers and to hand large swathes of the public sector to the transnational corporations and banks.

It is influential lobby groups like the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) which propose and “help” to draft EU treaties and the pact including the single currency.

They do this on behalf of the trans-national corporations and banks, namely the capitalists.

It is they who find that democracy and the powers of nation state governments are in the way of their vested interests and objectives.

The European Central Bank, with headquarters in Frankfurt, is one of the six key institutions of the EU and a major player in the eurozone crisis.

The ECB controls the monetary policy of the eurozone and determines interest and exchange rates.

These are two of the important levers for controlling the economy of nation states which have been taken away from the 17 eurozone national governments.

The ECB does not provide bailouts as determined in the EU constitution. The ECB president is Jean-Claude Trichet, a former governor of the Bank of France.

The European Commission is appointed and theoretically not accountable to any EU member state. Jose Manuel Barroso is president of the commission and a former prime minister of Portugal.

The commission of 27 commissioners also meets in secret and takes decisions by majority vote and is part of the executive of the EU along with the European Council of (prime) Ministers. The commission is the legislature of the EU and not the European Parliament.

In practice the European Parliament has no powers except some of co-decision where dissent can be overruled.

Any semblance of democracy within the EU is normally portrayed by this EU institution but is actually non-existent.

EU commissioners do report to the European Parliament but largely use this as a platform to announce matters and policies already decided upon.

The latest reports on the eurozone crisis are portrayed by the heads of France and Germany meeting in Berlin over what best to do.

The central point being that France wants to save French banks from falling over and Germany wants more integration to retain its dominant position in the eurozone.

In the event this bilateral meeting took decisions over and above the eurogroup and Ecofin as part of developing a two-tier EU.

Meanwhile the IMF, ECB and EU troika visit those member states which are likely to default to ensure austerity policies are put in place and the peoples of these countries pay up.

The troika's decisions and instructions override the relevant national governments and parliaments.

The crisis contains several contradictions where nation states demonstrate their existence and fundamental importance.

The governments of nation states are required to prevent the uncontrolled ravages of the “free movement of capital, goods, services and labour” – namely the present transnational form of capitalism in Europe and the West.

Part of the answer is for real internationalism and consists of solidarity to defend and re-establish the powers of nation states over transnational corporations and banks.

There is no substitute for these powers which the transnationals want to trash and there is no substitute for this solidarity with the peoples within nation states of the EU and the rest of the world.

John Boyd is secretary of the Campaign against Euro-federalism and is speaking at the Morning Star Alternatives conference in Salford on October 22.

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2011-10-14 15:00:49.
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