Since its founding there have been many groups and parties opposed to the ethos and policies of what is now the European Union. From Ireland's entry into the EEC in 1973 the Workers' Party has continued to have fundamental concerns at the EU's structures and policies. For over 30 years we have expressed our reasonable concerns. Time has not lessened our opposition to anti-working class ideology and policies of the European Union. And yet whatever opposition is presented, the EU marches on and we must recognise this and formulate the necessary strategy and tactics to halt the advance of capitalism.
The EU's present impasse, arising from the rejection of the European Constitution by Dutch and French voters, will only represent a temporary setback unless the progressive forces in Europe are capable of formulating and presenting a coherent and viable alternative to the capitalist project.
The French and Dutch vote will give an impetus to the "No" lobby across the EU, but because the No lobby is made up of many diverse elements, from fascists to the ultra-left, it is of the first importance that we make a clear distinction between these reactionary forces and genuine progressive parties in Europe.
It is a mistake not to recognise that there are some groups and individuals who parade as "progressive" and yet will align with any group, regardless of its orientation, once it says "No" to the EU.
Some of these forces would have us retreat into sterile, narrow nationalism (a malignant disease) which has caused untold misery, death and destruction across the world in recent decades.
As Socialist Republicans our opposition to the European Union derives from a principled political position.
The current developments in the European Union reflect the ideology of neo-liberalism. The object of competitiveness was to be achieved by cutting public services and increasing the trend towards privatisation. International experience dictates that this will be achieved by lower wages, cutting taxes, reducing regulation and lowering or removing protection for workers' rights and the environment. The EU is simultaneously attempting to reduce the state's responsibility for pension provision.
Although the EU is presently a "confederation" it is moving in an ever more federal direction. The EU policy agenda is largely framed by the Commission. The unelected, unaccountable Commission has the task of furthering the Lisbon process by forcing member states to deregulate labour markets, open essential services to private control and reduce social welfare commitments.
The Lisbon process which commits member states to the neo-liberal political agenda cannot be changed by the voters of any member state. It is fundamentally undemocratic that the peoples of Europe are subjected to a right-wing political, social and economic programme over which they have no control.
Similarly, the unelected European Central Bank dictates vital monetary policy.
The EU has, accordingly, transferred vital decision making powers, not to a transparent, accountable, democratic institution but to a group of bankers who are unaccountable, wholly undemocratic and fundamentally and inherently hostile to a socialist agenda.
These arrangements expose the difficulties of creating a "social Europe" when the systems is based on policies and institutions which are not amenable to democratic control and which accept, unchallenged, the philosophy and ideology of capitalism.
The growing militarisation of the European Union is a continuing cause of concern. This militarisation is a two-pronged affair. On the one hand there is the increased "defence" spending in all EU countries. On the other hand is the hidden militarisation: the growth and power of the EU armaments industry. otion of the concept of a "battle of civilisations".
This Ard Fheis therefore particularly condemns the decision of the Irish Government, announced recently by the Minister for Defence, that Ireland "was willing" to participate in EU battlegroup activities without the authoriity of a UN mamdate. Added to the known use of Shannon airport as a massive transit camp for American soldiers en route to and from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the probable use of Shannon for covert CIA flights for "extraordinary rendition" (ie kidnap and torture) this marks another step away from neutrality and the further integration of Ireland into the EU/US military fabric.
The Ard Fheis demands, i) No foreign military bases in the EU and ii) No EU troops outside the EU except under UN mandate and control.
We must recognise the significant benefits in social and progressive legislation since 1973. Despite these welcome advances, we make it clear that we stand for a different Europe to the present capitalist bloc.
This would be a Europe based on the principles of full democracy and accountability of those elected or appointed to lead, equality for all citizens, full employment, housing for all its citizens, a one-tier health service free to all at the point of delivery, a comprehensive education free to all from kindergarten to third level, a living income for pensioners, an end to military blocs, a fair and generous aid development programme representing a minimum of 0.07% of GDP, an environment protected by an energy policy based on clean and sustainable fuels with the option to examine the possibility to build a safe nuclear power programme.
It is an insult to the French and Dutch voters to claim that their rejection of the Treaty was based on national attitudes to their own governments. The leaders of the EU, including its bureaucracy, fail to understand that the people of the EU are seeking not just cosmetic reform or a few more crumbs of democracy but a fundamental and radical reappraisal of the entire project.
Any meaningful, democratic European parliament must be elected by the people of the Union. All other central institutions of the EU must be subordinate to the parliament in all matters affecting the Union.
It is the parliament which must have the power to elect and, if necessary, recall the Council and the Commission if either or both have lost the parliament's confidence. ill try to achieve their aims, which are contained in the Treaty.
The Directive on Services in the Internal Market (the so-called Bolkestien / Services Directive) was and remains a part of this agenda.
On 14 -16 February 2006 the European Parliament debated the Dirctive in plenary session and amended the text, removing, for example, reference to the country of origin principle. This result was achieved by reason of major resistance on the streets. However it is important not to be complacent. The directive proceeds apace.
The expansion of the EU and NATO into East and Central Europe has meant that Brussels has become the de facto capital of Europe with the European Commission and its bureaucracy a European government in transition.
The Workers' Party has one test in respect of any political issue: "How does this issue affect the interests of the working class? Is it in their interests or the interests of capitalism?" We are sure that the European Union under its past and present regimes pursues its policies in the interests of the few. The EU has failed the working class. Yes, there have been concessions and improvements in the lives of many people (in Ireland especially) in relation to social and human rights issues. But the reality is that the forces of capital have been able to repeatedly enrich themselves, through the privatisation of state companies across Europe and through widespread corruption at the expense of the citizens of Europe.
The democratic deficit is the EU's Achilles heel: "The Commission has immense powers. Commissioners are the only people in Europe with the right to propose EU Laws. No-one whom the people of Europe actually elect can propose an EU law". This reality means that such rightists as Charlie McCreevy and Peter Mandelson are two of the few people who can propose EU laws.
Some 85% of EU laws are agreed in secret working groups under the Council. Members of the European Parliament have no access to these groups. What have our elected representatives to the European Parliament been doing about this scandal, aside from drawing huge salaries and expenses?
In Ireland in recent times we have witnessed the coming of a huge number of migrant workers from the new member countries of the EU. We are also experiencing serious, widespread and sickening exploitation of thousands of these workers. On top of that these workers are being deprived of pension rights and other entitlements. Many are living in appalling conditions in caravans or huts on illegal sites for which they are being charged a large portion of their wages.
The contempt which the employers' organisations and the vast bulk of employers hold their workers is well illustrated by the actions of the Irish Ferries Company which decided to make hundreds of its workers redundant without any consultation. It states quite clearly that its decision is based on profit and to achieve this it will sack hundreds of Irish workers and employ hundreds of migrant workers on low pay. And all within the law as drafted and enforced by the EU Commission and bureaucracy.
There is a clear need for the progressive forces across the European continent to take unified action to begin to properly combat on a continental basis the activities and policies of capitalism in all its manifestations.
This should begin with a well-prepared European Union conference open to all progressive parties. The Workers' Party would suggest a similar initiative to the San Paulo Forum, which brought together all progressive parties and movements in Latin and Central America.
A campaign for Ireland's withdrawal is not viable having regard to the political realities in this country. In those circumstances, it is necessary to create a people's Europe.
The campaign for the rejection of the draft European Constitution as approved by the Intergovernmental Conference on 18 June 2004 remains a vital task for the Left in Europe because the ideas and aims it contains remain the aim of the ruling circles in the EU.
The fight against the EU Constitution is, accordingly, a struggle in defence of democracy.
* The key demand is Democracy in all areas of life in the EU.
* Accountability and Transparency must be a cornerstone of all decisions.
* The right of voters to recall their members of parliament if they are dissatisfied with the work and voting record of the member. This process can only be set in place when twenty per cent of the registered voters in the member's constituency sign a petition for the members recall.
* Oppose Privatisation and defend all Public Sector enterprises.
* End the exploitation of migrant workers by enacting legislation which will make employers accountable so that all their workers are protected and given full rights as citizens of each EU country.
The Workers' Party stands with our fellow European socialists in all European progressive organisations who are committed to a different Europe based on genuine internationalism, peace, equality, solidarity, dignity, social progress and workers' rights, a respect for and defence of the environment and the value of all living things over private profit and corporate greed.