Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Cycle of Conferences on the 153rd anniversary of Diário de Notícias – The Commitments of Portugal with Europe

«Nothing can force Portugal to renounce the right to opt for its own socioeconomic structures and its own political regime»

«Nothing can force Portugal to renounce the right to opt for its own socioeconomic structures and its own political regime»

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the invitation by the Board of Diário de Notícias to participate in this conference under the theme of “What Europe do we want?”, a reflection I consider of great importance and currentness, underlining that asking “what Europe do we want” and “what European Union do we want” is not the same thing, for Europe and the European Union are distinct realities, nor do we want to restrict the former within the latter.

We consider that to answer the issue raised, it is essential to answer prior questions, namely: how do we characterize the present situation in Europe? What implications does this situation have for Portugal? How can Portugal contribute for the Europe we aspire to? And through these answers, I will seek to contribute to the proposed reflection.

In our reflection, we consider that the current situation in Europe continues marked by what we characterize as a crisis in and of the European Union — a crisis that is not only an expression of the structural crisis of capitalism, but of the nature of the process of European capitalist integration, with which it is correlated and intimately tied.

After a decade since the peak of the crisis that erupted in 2007/2008, the European Union not only didn’t overcome its grave consequences, but insisted and deepened the factores and policies at the origin of the reproduction of the crisis and saw its contradictions come into evidence and worsen — of which the referendum determining the exit of the United Kingdom constituted a particularly significant element.

We highlight that the answer of the European Union to the crisis, namely the crisis of the Economic and Monetary Union, represents among other grave aspects a brutal increase in the process of privatization of public companies in strategic sectors, of advances against labour and other social rights, in the decay of social services and social functions of the State — particularly in the countries of the so-called “periphery”, made vulnerable by decades of Single Market and their integration in the Euro, translated into more dependence, lack of protection for their peoples, and economic and social divergence.
The so-called “programs of financial assistance”, applied specifically — like that imposed upon Portugal and that we characterized as a Pact of Aggression upon the Workers, people and country, agreed upon by PS, PSD and CDS with the European Union, ECB and IMF — constituted and constitute instruments of imposition of violent measures of impoverishment and exploitation — upon both labour and public resources — and subjection of States — via debt — to permanent interference, pressure and blackmail. So-called “rescue programs” that not only serve to defend the interests of big powers and finance their financial systems, but which represent actual experiences of a more severe framework within the European Union.

Deprived of sovereign instruments of monetary policy — without their own currency, central bank, issuer and creditor of last resort that can, if necessary, assist the State and the financial system — countries of the so-called “periphery” of the Euro Zone are more exposed to the deepening of the crisis, speculation of the so-called “financial markets”, the evaluations of the so-called “rating agencies” and the policies of the European Union dictated by its great powers and determined by the interests of transnational capital.

Measures such as a low interest rate or liquidity from the ECB don’t translate, essentially, into more investment and movement of the internal market, but tend to generate new speculative dynamics. The public debt of some countries continue to reach large proportions, constituting a significant obstacle to financing States and public investment. The necessary budgetary stimuli are hindered by the severe and grave constraints and conditions from the Economic and Monetary Union.

A reality that confirms the Euro is not mostly an economic or “technical” problem, but a fundamentally political issue.

Faced with its crisis, the European Union used it to foster a greater deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union, with the subsequent binding and alienation of sovereign competencies of States before the supra-national spaces and institutions of the European Union.

The Budgetary Treaty, “Economic Governance”, the “European Semester”, the “Banking Union”, the application of macroeconomic conditions in the use of the financial means of the European Union or the “EU 2020 Strategy” determine additional mechanisms of control and constraints of budgetary and economic policies of States with more vulnerable and dependent economies — always benefiting transnational capital. Consider how, through so-called “structural reforms”, the European Union tries repeatedly to intervene in matters like wages, labour legislation, public services or social security.
The answer of the European Union to the crisis not only did not resolve any of the its inherent contradictions, but worsened them. For instance: the contradiction between the interests of workers and peoples of the different countries that integrate the European Union — whose rights are increasingly called into question— and the interests of transnational capital — whose insatiable need for the accumulation and centralization of capital determines the process of integration; the contradiction between the deep aspiration to sovereign and democratic decision by a people regarding their present and future; and a process of integration that concentrates power in supra-national institutions dominated by great powers and by transnational capital, which confronts and disrespects the sovereignty and independence of States; or the contradiction between the interests of the so-called “periphery” countries and the interests of the big powers of the European Union, and the differentiated interests of each one.

It is in this framework that the European Union proceeds once again and acutely towards the deepening of its federalist, neoliberal and militarist character — pillars that define the matrix and nature of this process of integration — with the resurgence of ambitious and worn intentions, objectives and plans, whose agreement and/or achievement is announced until June of 2019.

Thus we see the resurgence of the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union — with the continuous increase of the liberalization of the Common Market, the achievement of a so-called European “IMF”, the creation of the so-called “minister of finances and economy” or the always announced conclusion of the Banking Union; the incessant disfigurement of the community budget — an instrument of the so often (falsely) proclaimed “convergence” and “economic and social cohesion”; the proposals to ensure the precedence of the interests of the European Union great powers in the processes of privatization, acquisition or fusion regarding other countries; the deepening of the militarization of the European Union — as the European pillar of NATO and as a “complement” to this politico-military block; a policy of immigration and refugees — deeply discriminatory, exploitative and inhumane; the decrease in unanimous votes in the Council — with the approval by qualified majority. These intentions, objectives and plans — among so many others — whose content and final conclusion will be, as always, determined and decided as a function of the preservation of the European Union, as an instrument to ensure the political and economic dominion of the big powers — particularly Germany — and the imposition of the prevailing interests of their big economic and financial groups.

Note that none of the measures advanced until now by the European Union — including the sham of the so-called “European Pillar of Social Rights” — question the core if its policies and guidelines: of fostering social regression; of safeguarding big financial groups at the cost of public coffers; of attacking the so-called “periphery” countries, namely for their dependence and debt; or the effective “straight-jacket” represented by the Budgetary Treaty, “Economic Governance”, “European Semester” or the “Banking Union” for the sovereignty of countries — among other examples. On the contrary, what is foreseen is precisely an advance towards reinforcing these same policies and guidelines.

At the same time and as always verified, the European Union accompanies this new step in the “European integration” propagating myths — to dissimulate its real objectives; brandishes “threats” and “dangers” — to foster feelings of insecurity and fear; enticing with “promises and funds” — to facilitate the abdication and alienation of national sovereignty and subsequent condemnation of economic dependency and political subordination.

From the common policies to the Common Market, from the Single Act to Maastricht, from Amsterdam to Nice, from the defeat of the “European Constitution” to the rebranded and inflicted Lisbon Treaty, from the Euro and Stability Pact to the Budgetary Treaty — thirty years of unbridled steps in the process of European capitalist integration prove that each new federalist step constitutes (and will constitute), essentially, new conditions and constraints to the sovereignty of States and reinforced instruments of imposing policies and measures that attack the rights and aspirations of workers and peoples.

That is, “more Europe”, or without euphemisms, “more European Union”, so often proclaimed, will mean a greater regression of labour and other social rights, an increase in the concentration and centralization of wealth and worsening of social inequalities and of asymmetries in the development of different countries; it means, in effect, fostering militarism and intensifying the interference against sovereign states and their peoples and impoverishing democracy; a growing disrespect of human rights, of which a shocking example is how it acts with the many thousands of immigrants and refugees from wards of aggression, regarding which the European Union is complicit and sponsor; it means the deepening of policies that open a space of action and foster the growth of the extreme-right and its xenophobic and reactionary nationalism.

Ladies and Gentlemen

For PCP, the present situation in Portugal reflects problems accumulated throughout decades of right-wing policies and integration of the European Union, which interconnected has led the country towards a situation of increased weakening and subordination.

Crisis, perversion of the democratic regime, economic shrinkage, social regression and increased exploitation, cultural impoverishment and environmental degradation, deepening its peripheral character and the country’s dependency — these are traits that derive from a process that seriously threatens sovereignty and national independence, which compromises the present and future of the country and demands to be interrupted and overcome.

Subject to the double stranglehold of the “deficit” and “public debt” and confronted with the inexistence of monetary, exchange and budgetary policy instruments, Portugal went through a long period of economic stagnation since joining the Euro in 1999.

A situation that decayed more acutely with a violent process of “adjustment” to which Portugal was subjected and which had devastating economic and social consequences.

A reality which was and is deepened by important constraints that compromise the effective development of the country, namely: one currency — the Euro — out of tune and increasingly in conflict with national interests; an unsustainable debt; a banking system dominated by big capital.
While it has been possible to interrupt the policy of acute destruction conducted by the previous PSD and CDS government and open a new stage in national political life, capable of advancing measures to answer some of the problems most deeply felt by the Portuguese — although short of what is possible and necessary — the situation of the country continues, however, profoundly marked by the consequences of decades of right-wing policies, European Union integration and monopolistic domination of the national economy, such as the structural deficits in the productive, energetic, scientific, food and demographic sectors. The present national situation demonstrates there can be another way other than exploitation, liquidation of rights and impoverishment. This also illustrates the growing incompatibility between the constraints imposed by the European Union and the Euro and a policy that deepens the path of recovering rights, increase in wages, pensions and social supports and sovereign development.

For PCP, the present phase of national political life, despite the possibilities it opens and should not be squandered, indicates the indispensable objective of rupture with the right-wing policy and a need of another policy — a patriotic and left-wing policy — that PCP considers indispensable to free the country from the limitation and constraints that block its development.

A policy that, as we have stated, given its patriotic dimension, inscribes national sovereignty and independence as a central objective, affirming the inalienable right of the Portuguese people to decide over the indispensable options and guidelines to achieve them, and the prevalence of that sovereign will over any and all external constraints and impositions.

A policy that has as decisive elements: the freeing of the country from the submission to the euro and impositions and constraints of the European Union; the renegotiation of the public debt; the valuing of work and workers; the defence and promotion of national production and productive sectors: guaranteeing public control of the banking sector; recovering basic strategic sectors of the economy to the public sector; guaranteeing an administration and public services at the service of the people and Country; the defence of a tax policy that relieves tax burden on the incomes of workers and people, and fight tax havens; the defence of the democratic regime and fulfilling the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.

A patriotic and left-wing policy that, in PCP’s consideration, will represent the best and most effective contribution the Portuguese people and Portugal may give towards achieving a Europe that breaks with federalism, neoliberalism and militarism of the European Union and affirms a Europe of cooperation, social progress and peace.

For PCP, the internationalization of the economy, the deep international division of labour, the interdependence and cooperation of States and the processes of integration, correspond to realities and tendencies that, given their orientation, characteristics and objectives, may serve international capital or may serve the peoples.

I would like to underline that, in the same manner and commitment with which it rejects autocratic and isolationist solutions, as well as chauvinism, nationalism and racism, PCP refuses alliances and reductive relations of national sovereignty that impoverish democracy, and defends an action aimed at revising, annulling or disassociating from treaties and commitments that harm the national interest and world peace.

One of the strongest requirements that emerges in the world of change in which we live is not the grave abdication of sovereignty, of uniform impoverishment and growing distance between decision centres and peoples, but the strong affirmation of wealth of differences, national identities, of recognising rights of nations to a sovereign political power, of aspiration to equality of rights and new forms of cooperation.

Therefore, PCP considers it indispensable that Portugal affirm a policy developed along six main and interconnected directions:

- Firmly defend the Portuguese interests, namely in the European institutions, fighting decisions that harm them;

- Minimize, with concrete measures, the constraints and negative consequences of the integration;

- struggle against supranational impositions and the limits to democracy and the will of the peoples;

- claim and use all means, resources and possibilities towards the progress of Portugal and welfare of the Portuguese;

- demand specifically and in articulation with the workers and peoples of other countries to break with the European process of capitalist integration and promote a Europe of peace and cooperation based on free, sovereign States, equal in rights;

- struggle for a sovereign development in agreement with the national interests of workers and people, whose achievement should prevail given the conditions or constraints, assuming the demands, paths and options the situation raise as necessary.

For PCP, nothing can force Portugal to renounce the right to opt for its own socioeconomic structures and its own political regime. Nothing can force Portugal to accept the position to subordinated State in the framework of the European Union and alienate its sovereignty and national independence. The Portuguese people have, and should always have, the full right to decide their own destiny and choose paths more in agreement with their historic identity and interests and aspirations.

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  • União Europeia
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