Lobby2 : If enterprises controlled the EuroParliament could they bring about an economic revival? What about Socio-Industrial Democracy?
21, October, 2010
If the largest industrial and financial lobby controlled the European Parliament, what would they vote as their Resolutions? Second question, if they overwhelmingly agreed on priorities, could they make it European policy? Would such priorities revive the European economy?
Let us assume it was a measure that would reform the whole financial system, create masses of new jobs, revolutionize the economy, provide the most optimum conditions for innovation and produce a booming economy that would knock Silicon Valley into a cocked hat. Would a Resolution help the EU in its present state?
Well, the European Chambers of Commerce went a long way to do that when as we previously recounted they took over the Parliament’s Hemicycle on 15 October 2010. They sat in the Deputies’ seats and voted using the Deputies’ own voting mechanisms.
What did they vote? Let’s consider just one of their Resolutions. It was voted YES by a whopping 85 per cent of the entrepreneurs present. That resolution was the creation of a new European company statute. It would be designed for help the creation of a European company as distinct from having multiple companies in all Member States, trying to establish themselves in each of the States and absorb and obey the confusing laws and tax systems. The present system is obviously a major hindrance to realizing the potential of the European Single Market.
Properly conceived it would provide a simpler accountancy structure, allow sounder finance, better employment conditions and a well-recognized European identity that anyone in the outer reaches of Africa or Asia would recognize as a just and equitable way of doing business. It would be an alternative to a mass of red tape and strangling bureaucracy.
If Europeans of every shade had an alternative option to create a new form of company law, company tax and employee relations, based on the combined and collective wisdom of all Member States (as well as best practice of countries outside the EU) wouldn’t the EU be able to provide a powerful springboard for renewal on a scale never known in its history? It would allow various areas of expertise to work together. This would not only allow Europeans to create new major companies to act on a world scale. It would also allow some of the smallest companies to really make use of the vast internal market and also become global players. SMEs could globalize more easily.
In fact the Eurochambres are just re-inventing the wheel. That is a sad reflection on the wasted talent and frustrations that remain a feature for more than sixty years. They probably do not even know it. That is a sadder reflection on the state of European education. The European Commission has a responsibility by law to propagate Europe’s factual history. Instead the public has been bamboozled by unfair and undemocratic governments who squelch a proper debate.
Sixty years waste that must have cost the European economy TRILLIONS of Euros! We are all the poorer. That happened because of the vanites of politicians. Today we can see that a Single Market is difficient if it does not have European companies.
Yes sixty years! The first resolution and agreement of a proper democratic parliament (not a so-called European Parliament of enterprises) was made in August 1950. This was part of a Great Debate on the future of Europe based on supranational principles. It took place in the Council of Europe. It got a whole lot further than the last debate. The Statute of a European Company was drawn up by the Legal Committee in conjunction with the Economic Committee. It was aided by experts from the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law. This preliminary Convention for both European public or private companies was drafted after a full inquiries with business circles, employers and workers’ associations. They agreed and defined the statute. It was then presented to the Member State governments in the CoE’s Committee of Ministers (as the Council institution is called).
That’s where it stayed. The governments did not want anything to challenge their tax base. Governments have a tendency to act irresponsibly, not in favour of the people, but their own interest. They loved their own cranky, complicated incomprehensible ancient systems. Hardly any of them were fit for the twentieth century never mind the twenty-first. The ministers then did not want a European Companies Office making comparisons between worn out national systems with a unified European system. They did not want to expose to public ridicule the chaotic tax and legal systems that had evolved over centuries.
At least that is the obvious conclusion. The governments did not give a hang that the European economy would be greatly improved. They were more keen on beggaring their neighbour than to help the European economy. They were not convinced by the European Community argument that everyone, including themselves, would gain in a Single Market. Today I hope we know better. But we haven’t put the lessons into effect.
So 60 years after the legal proposals were refined, Europeans are further back than in 1950. What should be done?
It obviously makes no sense for European enterprises to suggest a European Company in total isolation with the other sections of society that are keenly involved. That includes above all, the employees or independent workers and the consumers. Europeans have no taste to return to a fascist corporate State, a workers’ paradise or be subject to cartels abusing the consumers.
That is why the Founding Fathers created the Economic and Social Committee, one of five key institutions. It has three main sections: enterprises, workers and consumers. It is exactly what is required. It is the real parliament for the economic actors — and it has never really been used as it should have.
The main problem since the time of Mr de Gaulle is that this key institution has not been allowed to develop. He froze it. Today we should ask: How should it begin to acquire the influence that the treaties define for it? That is relatively simply. It only takes a bit of altruistic leadership. Let’s say civic courage that the ministers lacked then.
The conditions have remained the same since the time of the 1951 Treaty of Paris or the Treaty of Rome. Let us take the article in the Lisbon Treaty. It is practically identical in conception.
Article 301 TEC says ‘The Council, acting unanimously, on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt a decision determining the Committee’s composition.’ First note that it is not the Council that can dictate the composition of the EcoSoc. In fact it is the EcoSoc itself that can propose its own internal membership and then the Commission must make a Proposal.
What should be the composition? Should it be composed of a rag bag of personalities friendly to the NATIONAL political masters in the Council, as Mr de Gaulle wanted? Or should they really be representatives of EUROPEAN enterprise, labour and consumers? Obviously they have to have European expertise with a connection to a network of national experts in all States.
Compare that with de Gaulle’s system. It makes no sense for the democratic legitimacy of the Committee to continue the farce of having the politicians pick as its members their buddies as prizes for party loyalty. No member should be there for party political loyalty. They should be there to represent organized civil society on a EUROPEAN scale.
The Commission has the right of initiative. The Commission has simply to ask the EcoSoc to begin the exploration about how they can have and adequate European representation to give adequate advice and counsel — after all that is the purpose of the institution. The first step would be to collect the names and addresses of all European associations in the three categories and determine criteria for acceptance as representative and well-run organizations.
The Founding Fathers wanted to chase the lobbyists out of the Parliament. They wanted to chase Lobbyists out of the corridors and clubs that ministers frequent. They did not want lobbyists pestering the Commission. It should not present unbalanced and unfair proposals. They wanted to be sure that cartels did not continue to try to grab political control and fleece the consumers.
That is why they said no single company should be heard as a lobbyist. The only valid group that can be heard in a democracy is a well founded democratic association or trade union or consumer organization. That is true whether it is the European chemical workers’ union or the European shoe manufacturers association. The EcoSoc has full treaty rights to engage in the most technical debate they need by creating its own sub-committees for the purpose. Then an open debate can be conducted so there are no hidden lobbies. All debates are open. A record is kept. Everyone has an in-depth view of the challenge, the problems and the advantages.
The legal and political power is languishing in disuse. When the Commission is about to deal with a problem or after it has made a proposal, the EcoSoc has the legal duty to debate amendments. All legislative proposals of a certain type MUST be sent to the EcoSoc. That is the treaty law. That means companies in their professional associations can have a far more powerful influence than vague resolutions. The Treaties give organized civil society in this tripartite form as much power as Parliament to influence the legislation that governs them. That is only fair.
If for example one industry wants to introduce a new product which they say is helpful, then the workers who help manufacture it should have adequate information about the process, transport and other aspects and the Consumers should have adequate information about all aspects of its preparation, manufacture and use and disposal.
The Founding Fathers, contrary to the bright sparks who dreamed up the Lisbon Treaty, had rather intelligent proposals and created the means for them to be fully implemented.
It is up to the present generation to have the courage to do so.David Heilbron Price
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