The ritual which we are experiencing here in 2008 within the process of European construction in 2008 – the ritual of distributing the report and extensive documentation to groups at the last minute - and in Portugal’s participation in it, has to be examined in light of what it has achieved in 2009.
First, with the support of the Portuguese socialist government, the European Council led the process of renewing the term of the Barroso Commission's chairmanship, forgetting not only his role in the shameful Azores Summit that triggered the war in Iraq and involved the dissemination of lies to justify it, but also his role in supporting the neoliberal and anti-social policies and proposals that the current Commission endorsed, against the protest and resistance of social movements across Europe.
If we consider the evident inability of the EU to define economic and social responses and a truly comprehensive European response to the current crisis, if we remember that for all the moralising rhetoric of EU officials against banditry and fraud in the financial system, not a single concrete measure was taken, for example, to stop off-shore banks, we have to conclude that the current European Council, and with it the government of Portugal’s Socialist Party, was only aiming at renewing Barroso’s chairmanship, confirming the neoliberal strategy developed by the EU. The aim is to confirm the strategy that generated the crisis and made it possible, that refused to fight it in defence of the interests of workers, immigrants, the unemployed, the poor and the weakest. The Socialist government tried to hide behind ridiculous patriotic arguments in order to avoid a genuine political debate.
The renewal of José Manuel Barroso, the fugitive head of government of the Social Democratic Party, an accomplice of the Azores Summit, strategist of neoliberal policies in Europe, with the consent and the promotion of the Socialist Party government, is the best demonstration that the Centre Block is a reality structuring Portuguese politics both at the national and the European level.
We are proposing a left alternative to this policy. This is the discussion that occurred during the European electoral campaign and which will be discussed in the social and political struggles to come.
Second, projected as the type and style of democratic life in the EU is not only the strategy of approving the Lisbon Treaty by refusing to hold referendums after the defeats in France and Holland, but also the infamous policy of repeating the referendum as many times as necessary until it can be won by supporters of the “Yes” option. In Ireland, the possible conditions enabling a repeat of the referendum forced the EU to introduce, in an appendix, new provisions that substantially change the original text and will also be shown in the text presented for the Treaty of Accession of Croatia.
This means, in fact, that the Treaty of Lisbon will circulate in two different text versions. One, which until now has been ratified by member-states; and another one, which will be sanctioned in Ireland and subject to the accession of Croatia. A kind of “à la carte” Treaty. In short, a farce that, by its democratic illegitimacy, can damage the Lisbon Treaty, and in which the Socialist government, with the support of the social democrats, were active participants.
The whole process of the Lisbon Treaty is proof of the serious democratic deficit that characterises EU institutions and their isolation from all the citizens.
Neither is the apparent deficit of the EU's structural policies to combat the crisis and unemployment surprising. After all, what would one expect from a Commission that created and facilitated the impact of the crisis through policies aiming at the destruction of public services, the promotion of unemployment and insecurity and the weakening of labour policies, with the permanent primacy of police and information concerns over social and political cohesion?
It is significant, though not surprising, that the Socialist government is working for the renewal of the symbol of these policies through the chair of the Commission.
What is surprising, however, is that they do not realise this is the reason why more than 50% of European citizens did not go to the polls last June 7, and that when they did so, it was to reject these democratically and socially deficient policies.