We put the same 6 questions to a number of prospective MEPs ahead of this Thursdays elections, on austerity, the far right, European integration, the CAP and more. Here are Jean Lambert’s answers.
Where do you stand on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?
Very clearly against: we’re not convinced we need a free trade deal with the US at all, and certainly not this one as currently presented. We have concerns that there will be downward regulatory pressure on both environmental and food standards in the EU and financial services in the USA. The state-investor-dispute-settlement proposal moves away from the rule-of-law and the courts and into a closed tribunal with no appeal, giving business power over democratic government decisions, whereas those governments should be in control. We believe this entrenches moves towards greater competition and privatisation in the health service, for example, which would make it near-impossible for any new government to change.
Does the Eurozone require fiscal integration if it is going to survive?
We believe the future of the euro is a matter for the eurozone, although we also believe countries should be able to leave or join the euro as they choose. Our sister parties in the eurozone certainly believe that a degree of fiscal consolidation will be necessary as will attention to surplus as well as deficit across the zone. The GPEW has, however, always been against the UK’s membership of the euro as we believe that monetary policy should be more sensitive to local economic needs and changes.
What will you do about the expected rise of the far right in Europe?
We need to ensure that any discrimination, xenophobia and racism is challenged at every turn and, where the law is broken, that far-right politicians are prosecuted. Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary are becoming increasingly popular, and I think fighting for true equality will be an even bigger part of a progressive MEPs role after this week’s election. It is also important to pay attention to some of the social factors that make such parties more attractive and for governments and political parties to respond constructively and work with and for people at the local level..
What will you do about migrants drowning in attempts to reach Europe?
We need a policy that prioritises protecting people above protecting borders, and I think we need to reform the way Frontex – the EU’s external border patrols – operates in the Mediterranean to ensure there are no more deaths caused by EU migration policy. That also means looking at offering better opportunities to work in the Eu and to help develop economies and job prospects in countries-of-origin.
Does the Common Agriculture Policy need to be reformed? If so, how?
Yes! In a nutshell we need a CAP to ensure our environment, our food consumers (ie all of us!), our small farmers, and farm animals are protected and treated fairly. Such a CAP need to take the precautionary principal and ban all genetically-modified crops (and livestock!) and large-scale mono-cropping, work for fairness and reward neither inefficient land use nor promote inequality and big business. Some progress has been made, but too much support still goes to large landowners.
Austerity across Europe has had some very mixed results. Is fiscal tightening and balancing budgets still the best way forward or is it time for a new approach?
‘Very mixed results’ is a generous way of putting it: I’d say austerity in Europe has been a blunt instrument that has been applied with no real thought to the social consequences – a typical IMF approach.. It has caused unemployment to rise, government provision of key health, care and welfare services to curtailed, poverty to increase and, politically, a rise in the popularity of xenophobic and racist politicians in some countries. Yes, we urgently need a new approach – and I’d favour one based on balancing budgets but increasing revenue by taking hard measures to combat tax avoidance and evasion, increasing the tax take from the increasing numbers of very wealthy individuals, introducing a ‘Robin Hood’ style tax on banking transactions, and, in short, implementing a fairer tax system for all, based on wealth as well as income. At the EU level, we also need to look at investment to shift to a low-carbon economy – providing work, reducing fuel imports (and thus assisting the balance of payments deficit) and acting to combat climate change.
Taking the EU as a whole, do you support the continued policy of “ever closer union” or do you favour moving back towards more national autonomy?
It is actually “ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe” and yes, I think that’s a great idea. In terms of its usual interpretation: neither, but we need to keep a continuing eye on the balance There is a strong case for European decision-making on cross-border issues such as financial regulation, environment, justice and human rights: this does not mean an end to national or regional identity. There is also a strong case for greater devolution within this Member State and a number of others – but that’s not a fight in the European election…
Interview conducted by Open Democracy here