Another Europe Is Possible: sign the ‘London Declaration’

May 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm (campaigning, Europe, internationalism, left)

From Another Europe Is Possible:

Today, Yanis Varoufakis, John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas are launching this call to vote In and change Europe. You can add your signature here.

THE LONDON DECLARATION: VOTE IN TO CHANGE EUROPE

28th May, 2016

We come together from different backgrounds, political parties and movements. We are joining forces to call on people across the UK to rise up, campaign, and vote ‘IN’ to change Europe.

The people of Britain will make a historic decision in the referendum on 23rd June, 2016. In the next four weeks, progressives must mobilise to win their hearts. We cannot leave the future of our country in the hands of regressive politicians and vested interests who do not speak for us.

This is the first step in a bold campaign to reclaim our democracy – not just here in the UK, but all over Europe.

The European Union has built a lasting peace, helped protect our shared environment, created possibilities for protecting the rights of citizens and workers, and established common ground for Europeans to live, study and work together.

It suffers from serious flaws – a vacuum of democracy and economic policies which are unleashing a vortex of deflation and depression in several countries, yielding nationalism and xenophobia everywhere.

We are faced with a stark choice today. Either we walk away from the European Union and reap the whirlwind – or we join together across parties and borders to build an open, democratic Europe that works in the interests of all its citizens.

We know another Europe is possible. It is down to us to work for it.

If we leave the EU, who stands to benefit most? The political and financial elites of this country. Be under no illusion that a vote to leave will somehow strengthen British democracy, bring shared prosperity, or strengthen the influence of the majority of Britons over decisions that affect our common future.

‘Brexit’ would strengthen nationalism and xenophobia in Britain and across Europe, sowing conflict, strengthening toxic politics and accelerating an economic crisis that will drag all of us down. Being outside the EU will not insulate us from this fate.

We, the undersigned, have joined forces to campaign together for a democratic and progressive IN vote. We are against walking away from Europe, and we are against surrendering to the status quo in Brussels.

Our campaign against Brexit is also a campaign to join forces with democrats across Europe to confront the status quo and to democratise the EU. The unity of working people and progressives striving for a sustainable future is the only source of hope for better things to come. And this unity cannot, and should not, end at the British Channel.

By joining forces to promote the Remain vote on June 23rd, we are beginning a passionate campaign for a Britain that prospers in:

  • A Democratic Europe in which authority stems from Europe’s sovereign peoples, decision-making is transparent and communities are empowered;
  • A Social Europe that recognises rights and freedom from exploitation as a prerequisite for true liberty;
  • A Dynamic Europe that unleashes the creative and productive powers of its citizens;
  • A Peaceful Europe, which serves as a force for good in our neighbourhood and around the globe;
  • An Open Europe that is alive to ideas, people and inspiration from all over the world, instead of building fences and borders to divide us;
  • A Sustainable Europe, leading the way in the green transition to the flourishing economies of the future, and living within the planet’s means.

We are united in this call; now we are calling upon all of you to join us. This is your campaign. Let us work together to vote IN on the 23rd June, and to change Britain and Europe for the better!

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Austrian election: a wake-up call to the UK idiot-left

May 24, 2016 at 2:41 pm (Austria, elections, Europe, fascism, immigration, internationalism, Jim D, left, Racism, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP)

Above: Norbert Hofer came within a few thousand votes of winning

To #Lexit:

Lexit-leaflet-cover copy 2 

Wake up you idiots!

Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) has come terrifying close to winning the Austrian presidential election. The FRO is still on track to finish first in the next Austrian parliamentary election, due within the next two years.

The FPO has Nazi origins and like the French Front National and right wing populist parties that are coming to the fore throughout Europe, it is viciously anti-immigrant, with a particular hostility towards Muslims. In Hungary, Poland, Finland and Switzerland these parties are already participating in national governments. They are all, of course, anti-EU. Marine La Pen’s Front National could well win next year’s French presidential elections.

How long would it be before these new and resurgent right wing movements tear the EU apart?

Which poses a question for you people on the British left who advocate what you call “Lexit” or “Exit Left” – the Communist Party/Morning Star, the SWP and its spin-off Counterfire, plus the Socialist Party tagging along, together with the RMT union:

Do you really want the break-up of the EU at the hands of these forces? Do you really think anything progressive could possibly come of such an outcome?

Presumably, as self-proclaimed internationalists, you do not merely favour the UK pulling out: you must, logically, favour the break-up of the EU in its entirety.

Have you given any serious thought to what this would mean?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. ‘Foreign’ workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face increased hostility and racism.

Any possibility of a humane and fair resolution of the migrant crisis would be completely ruled out, as each European country competed with each other to increase border controls and deport migrants even more ruthlessly than they mare doing now.

There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut of from broader economic arenas.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and would thus be pushed towards crude cost-cutting. In the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than bigger employers. The limited, but real, workers’ right brought in by the EU would be swept aside.

There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s exacerbated the slump then.

Inevitably, economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to increased tensions and, eventually, war – as happened in Europe for centuries and twice in the last century.

Austria’s close-run presidential vote reveals people are disappointed with the mainstream parties and don’t feel represented any longer, while the refugee crisis, the euro crisis, Islamist terror attacks and dissatisfaction with the EU have also caused a shift to the right in Austria and throughout Europe. But the answer is to put forward internationalist, pro-working class, anti-austerity policies across Europe, not to attempt to jump on the nationalist, racist anti-EU bandwagon of the far-right.

In the weeks that followed Hitler’s seizure of power in February 1933 the German Communist Party (KPD) and the Communist International clung rigidly to their view that the Nazi triumph would be brief and that it would be a case of “after Hitler – our turn”: is that what you #Lexit people really expect to happen after the far-right succeeds in breaking up the EU? If so, you are not just politically illiterate: you are criminally irresponsible.

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Message from Another Europe Is Possible

May 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm (left, Europe, posted by JD, campaigning)

Message from Another Europe Is Possible

Hello everyone,

It’s that time of the week again – the Another Europe  update.

1. It’s damn close – so let’s go wild
We are in serious danger of losing the referendum on the EU. In fact, a number of polls released this week show a slight lead for Brexit when it’s left down to those more likely to vote. More and more, it looks like it’s going to come down to turnout, especially among young and traditionally leftwing voters – high is good for us, low is good for Boris Johnson. That means that what we do is especially important.

So if you’re not already, now is the time to really push your networks to mobilise. Run a stall, knock on doors, leaflet the train stations. Don’t wait for orders or coordination from above – get materials (from us!) and get going! We’ll be launching a slightly more robust ground campaign strategy after May 28th.

2. Are you coming to the national event? And can you help on the day?
On May 28th, we’re holding our flagship event (as featured in the Guardianwith John McDonnell, Yanis Varoufakis, Caroline Lucas and many others (we’ll be announcing lots more speakers early next week). This is going to be a big event – we’ve sold over 1,000 tickets already – and we need help on the day. If you’re coming and you’re up for manning a stall or ushering a famous speaker, please get in touch. And if you’re London based, please swing past the office on Tuesday evening (24th May) at 7pm.

3. Local speaker tour dates
Yesterday we launched a new speaker tour date in Newcastle on June 2nd. That means that we’ve got events in Newcastle on 2nd June (where we’ve got rid of 72  tickets in 24 hours), Bristol on 31st May (364 tickets), Birmingham on 1st June (202), Sheffield on 3rd June (296) and Manchester on 4th June (224). These numbers are high, but because we’re giving the tickets away for free, we expect a certain drop-out rate. So do keep pushing!

We are also working on a list of other potential cities (as suggested by you). How many more we do will depend on the availability of speakers in the weeks of the 6th and 13th June.

As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want more information or resources – or you want to suggest something – just drop us a line, or give me a bell on 07964791663.

Cheers,

Michael Chessum
National Organiser
Another Europe is Possible
07964791663

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Anti-EU left: “Tories not in charge … not the most evil ones”

May 9, 2016 at 5:42 pm (Beyond parody, Europe, Jim D, plonker, stalinism)

Above: Arron Banks: on the Trade Unionists Against the EU website

Doug Nicholls, chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU (whose website features Ukip’s Arron Banks), writes in the Morning Star:

‘Don’t believe the hype; the Tories are not in charge and not the most evil ones. They work to the directives and treaties of the EU and base their budgets on the EU austerity agenda and stability and “growth” pact. This has already created the world’s lowest-growth area and flattened collective bargaining’.

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Johnson’s anti-Obama racism

April 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm (Europe, Obama, posted by JD, Racism, Tory scum, United States)

More foghorn than dogwhistle:

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Corbyn’s speech on the EU

April 15, 2016 at 7:43 am (Europe, internationalism, labour party, posted by JD, solidarity)

The Labour leader’s speech delivered yesterday (Thursday April 14 2016) setting out his position on the EU and the forthcoming referendum:

THE people of this country face a historic choice on June 23 — whether to remain part of the European Union, or to leave.

I welcome the fact that that decision is now in the hands of the British people. Indeed, I voted to support a referendum in the last parliament.

The move to hold this referendum may have been more about managing divisions in the Conservative Party, but it is now a crucial democratic opportunity for people to have their say on our country’s future — and the future of our continent as a whole.

The Labour Party is overwhelmingly for staying in, because we believe the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and offers the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century. Labour is convinced that a vote to Remain is in the best interests of the people of this country.

In the coming century, we face huge challenges — as a people, as a continent and as a global community.

How to deal with climate change? How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes? How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism? How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation? How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world? And how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire?

All these issues are serious and pressing, and self-evidently require international co-operation. Collective international action through the European Union is clearly going to be vital to meeting these challenges. Britain will be stronger if we co-operate with our neighbours in facing them together.

As Portugal’s new Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said: “In the face of all these crises around us, we must not divide Europe — we must strengthen it.”

When the last referendum was held in 1975, Europe was divided by the cold war, and what later became the EU was a much smaller, purely market-driven arrangement.

Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU. And I remain critical of its shortcomings — from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.

So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.

I’ve even had a few differences with the direction the Labour Party’s taken over the past few years, but I have been sure that it was right to stay a member. Some might say I’ve even managed to do something about changing that direction.

In contrast to four decades ago, the EU of today brings together most of the countries of Europe and has developed important employment, environmental and consumer protections.

I have listened closely to the views of trade unions, environmental groups, human rights organisations and of course to Labour Party members and supporters and fellow MPs.

They are overwhelmingly convinced that we can best make a positive difference by remaining in Europe.

Britain needs to stay in the EU as the best framework for trade, manufacturing and co-operation in 21st-century Europe.

Tens of billion pounds-worth of investment and millions of jobs are linked to our relationship with the EU, the biggest market in the world.

EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights, including four weeks’ paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, protections for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace.

Being in the EU has raised Britain’s environmental standards, from beaches to air quality, and protected consumers from rip-off charges. But we also need to make the case for reform in Europe — the reform David Cameron’s government has no interest in, but plenty of others across Europe do.

That means democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people. Economic reform to end self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy. Labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe. And new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.

So the case I’m making is for “Remain — and Reform” in Europe.

Today is the Global Day of Action for Fast Food Rights. In the US workers are demanding $15 an hour, in the UK £10 now. Labour is an internationalist party and socialists have understood from the earliest days of the labour movement that workers need to make common cause across national borders.

Working together in Europe has led to significant gains for workers here in Britain, and Labour is determined to deliver further progressive reform in 2020 — the democratic Europe of social justice and workers’ rights that people throughout our continent want to see. Read the rest of this entry »

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The sheer stupidity and self-delusion of ‘exit left’

April 13, 2016 at 7:52 pm (CPB, Europe, left, posted by JD, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, wankers)


This way to a cul-de-sac

By a London teacher (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Vote Ukip, get Corbyn!

I have been on the far left for over thirty years, and I’ve seen and heard some pretty strange things.

I have watched women members of a revolutionary socialist group join the back of a segregated Muslim march against Israel. I’ve argued with left-wing British trade unionists who backed the jailing of independent trade unionists in the old USSR. I’ve seen socialists carry “We are Hizbollah” placards, and listened to leftists who refused to condemn 9/11.

These are sincere people, genuinely believing they are doing the right thing. Often they have given many years of their lives fighting for what they hope will be a better world. And yet they have lost the plot. Their immediate actions and views have become seriously detached from the fight for human liberation.

The current left belief that Brexit is a blow against EU racism and will lead to a left shift in British politics is right up there in the Premier League of unreason.

At the National Union of Teachers union conference over the Easter holiday we debated the EU referendum, eventually rejecting Leave the EU by a big majority.

The Communist Party’s Unity bulletin had declared that the EU vote was (despite the words on the ballot paper) about the NHS.

The SWP believe that a vote to leave will be a blow against racism, despite the fact that a tabloid-driven, UKIP-benefiting, wave of racist hysteria will grip the country if Britain votes to leave. The new leader of the Tory Party will preside over a capitalist UK with even more unpleasant immigration restrictions.

Unfortunately the NUT Executive’s amendment which was passed did not advocate staying in the EU and advocated no position on this “divisive issue”. Some speeches urged rejection of the Brexit position because this was a political matter and the union should defend workers, not meddle with politics.

Workers Liberty’s problem with a union adopting a Brexit position is not that it is political, but that it is stupid.

Brexit is an immediate, pressing threat for many workers in the UK. If Britain votes to get out of the EU the first thing which will happen is that the regulations governing the right of EU workers to work here will be seriously worsened.

In my school the cleaners are mainly Portuguese. Some teaching assistants are Spanish. The man in the photocopy room is Polish. The men in the Premises Dept are Eastern European. There are teachers from Ireland, Spain, Eastern Europe and other EU countries. Quite a few students and their families are from Europe. If the NUT had adopted a Brexit policy what would I say to them? The union has concluded that, in order to strike blow against the racism of the EU, we will help an even worse right wing Tory government into office who will then insist you Sod Off Home? What sense could any normal, rational person make of that?

If you are a racist that message might seem reasonable. If you are a white SWPer with a British passport, Brexit might not appear so much of a problem. For everyone else on the left or in the unions it is a serious threat to the working lives of our friends and co-workers.

Nevertheless the SWP and Socialist Party are dimly aware that Leave = more racism. No doubt someone has told them so.

So they have solved their presentational problem by adding an extra delusional twist to their policy. Although Brexit may seem to hand the government on a plate to the Tory right led by Johnson and Gove, in fact it will give us a left Labour government, led by Corbyn. Hey presto! Like magic, like a rabbit from a hat!

In fact, although Brexit would presumably mean Cameron would lose the leadership of his Party, it is unlikely that the government would fall (it would require a no confidence vote). Even if Brexit did lead to an election, given a Leave vote would give a massive boost to the right in British politics the left would hardly be in a position to take advantage. The right would make gains in an election that came after a vote to Leave.

So why do people like the SWP and SP add an extra layer of delusion – vote to Leave and get a Corbyn government! – to shore up their Left Leave position? Because to do otherwise would mean examining their basic framework which says any damage to capitalism and the Tories is good for us. Having a close look at that framework would be difficult and dangerous (because it would lead to an unravelling of a lot of other positions they hold).

They find it easier to plod on, no matter what damage is done to rational left politics

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Wilders, Farage help give Putin a victory against the people of Ukraine

April 7, 2016 at 9:38 pm (Andrew Coates, apologists and collaborators, Europe, fascism, immigration, Jim D, populism, Racism, Ukraine)


Above: Farage backs Putin’s line on Ukraine – on Putin’s very own TV channel

“More worrying, though, is the UKIP line supporting Putin and claiming that a trade agreement with Ukraine is somehow an example of EU aggression. It takes breathtaking chutzpah to claim that non-exclusive trade constitutes aggression, while Russia is ‘only defending itself’ when it annexes part of the territory of its neighbour, supports violent separatists in another part and tries to prevent a sovereign country from choosing to trade with its neighbours.

“UKIP’s pro-Putin line has been aped by other far-right parties in Europe. In return, Putin has given support to several of them. It is a truly worrying trend” – Labour MEP Richard Corbett in September 2014 .

The right wing fanatics and racists who are the driving force behind the anti-EU movement in Europe and Britain, have scored a victory on behalf of their hero and (in some cases) financial sponsor Vladimir Putin.

Dutch voters have voted against an EU trade agreement with Ukraine, and in doing so have handed Putin a propaganda victory and stabbed the Ukrainians in the back: it is the same draft agreement that sparked pro-EU protests in Kiev, sending the authoritarian Kremlin stooge Viktor Yunukovych into exile in Russia in February 2014.

Farage helped garner support for the referendum in the first place, and has a long record of “admiring” Putin and supporting his stance on Ukraine.

The racist anti-immigration right winger Geert Wilders has worked with Farage throughout, emphasising the alleged threat of immigration from Ukraine and an expansion eastwards of the EU:  whether these racist reactionaries are actually in the pay of Putin (as are, for sure, the French Front National and the Hungarian anti-Semitic Jabbik party) is not the real issue: paid or unpaid, these right wing fanatics and racists are doing Putin’s bidding. And, in the Netherlands, as in Britain, some idiot-leftists have gone along with it, as Comrade Coatesy explains here). The people of Ukraine, who courageously rose up against corrupt rule in 2014, are the victims of ultra-right Putin-fans like Farage and Wilders.

Serious leftists in the UK need to learn our lessons from this debacle.

Above: this poster, depicting Wilders and Putin in a tender moment, was banned from railway stations and bus shelters in the Netherlands. It was designed by the youth wing of the Netherlands’ Labour Party

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The anti-EU “left” and its embarrassing friends

April 2, 2016 at 11:11 am (Europe, ex-SWP, Lindsey German, posted by JD, stalinism, SWP, wankers)

This way to a cul-de-sac

Alan Thornett reports on the London meeting on March 23 called by Counterfire and the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) in support of an exit vote in the EU referendum.

It’s worth noting that until the announcement of the forthcoming referendum, Alan Thornett and Socialist Resistance, of which he is a leading member, favoured withdrawal from the EU. They still show little sign of fully thinking-through the implications of their change of line, welcome as it.

From the Socialist Resistance website:

It generated a lively debate amongst the hundred plus people who attended.

The platform speakers were Tariq Ali, Lindsey German from Counterfire Liz Payne, chair of the CPB, Harsev Bains from the Indian Workers Association Aaron Bastani from Novara Media, Joseph Choonara from the SWP, and a speaker from the RMT. There was no sign of the Socialist Party who hold a similar vote for exit position.

The stance taken from the platform was that the EU is a reactionary anti-working class project. I suspect most in the room, including myself, agreed with that. Therefore, and this is the controversial part, the only position to have in the referendum a was a vote to leave.

Given this, much of the discussion was about what exit would mean in terms of the political aftermath in Britain and where it would leave the workers’ movement.

The platform was unanimous on this. They argued, incredibly in my view, that an exit vote would create a good situation for the left. It could well bring down the Tories and even bring a left wing Corbyn government to office.

This was strongly challenged by Charlie Hore from RS21 who said that all this completely misunderstood the character of the referendum and the conditions under which it was taking place. It was a Tory leadership project designed to placate the Tory xenophobic right and gather a few votes from UKIP at the election.

I spoke on similar lines and saying the idea that the left would gain from an exit vote was fantasy land. If the vote goes for exit it will be a huge victory for UKIP, the Tory right and for racism and xenophobia. The idea that such an event could push the political situation to the left is simply not credible.

It is far more likely that it would push the situation sharply to the right and could split the Tory party, bringing about a realignment of the xenophobic right which would put them in a stronger position. It would be seen as an endorsement of racism and xenophobia in a referendum and you would not want to be a migrant or an asylum seeker in Britain after such a vote had taken place.

Other floor speakers talked about the need to win back national sovereignty and others talked about how the EU had helped to precipitate war with Russia in Ukraine.

The platform was somewhat embarrassed by the first speaker from the floor. He said he was from People Before Profit in Lewisham and that they were having joint stalls with UKIP. In fact, he said, the UKIP people preferred to hand out the PBP leaflets rather than their own!

All the platform speakers rightly disagreed with this and took the first opportunity presented to say so.

One worrying thing in all this was the complacent attitude taken by the platform regarding the precarious situation that citizens of other EU countries living in Britain would be in the event of an exit. I had raised this in my contribution saying that both of the main exit campaigns had been asked about this and neither had been prepared to say that their situation would remain the same. They have both said that it is not possible to say at this stage.

Joseph Choonara replied to this saying that he thought that it is unlikely that moves would be made against them in the event of an exit because there are a lot of Brits in other EU countries, particularly Spain. Not much comfort there.

Although there was talk at the beginning of the meeting of the need to set up a left exit campaign. At the end of the meeting nothing happened in this regard. You got the distinct feeling that no one was bursting to launch it.

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Steel crisis: state aid, including nationalisation, is *not* prevented by the EU!

March 31, 2016 at 4:31 pm (economics, Europe, Jim D, reformism, solidarity, Tory scum, unions, workers)

As the UK’s steel industry faces extinction, the Tories prevaricate over what – if any- state aid they are willing to offer in order to save the Tata operations at Port Talbot, Rotherham, Corby and Shotton (North Wales). At least 40,000 jobs are at stake.

Business minister Anna Soubry initially stated that the  government was willing to consider “everything possible” – including nationalisation – in order to save the Port Talbot plant. But now her boss, business secretary Sajid Javid has ruled out nationalisation, arguing “if you look around Europe and elsewhere, I think nationalisation is rarely the answer.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Tata Steel have suggested that EU rules restricting state aid were to blame for its decision to sell the UK steel business – a claim that has been seized upon by campaigners for Brexit, including the supposedly “left wing” Morning Star, always willing to let the Tories off the hook by claiming (entirely falsely) that the British government “is banned by EU competition laws” from intervening to save the industry.

While it’s true that EU rules place some restrictions on using state aid to prop up industries, European governments with the political will have either turned a blind eye to the regulations or found ways round them. For instance, while the EU blocks support for “manufacturers in difficulties”, it allows national governments to nurture the “long term competitiveness and efficiency” of industry, and also to provide state funding to lessen the “social impact” of closures.

Even outright nationalisation is not barred by the EU: Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:12008E345

All across the EU states have majority shares or own and run their own transport and energy sectors. This is confirmed in this 2013 Estep report, commissioned by the EU: http://www.esparama.lt/es_parama_pletra/failai/ESFproduktai/2_UM_valstybes-valdomos-imones_2013-03.pdf

In particular the report states: ‘SOEs are entitled for public services provision, which can be broadly observed in utility sectors such as transport, telecommunications or energy.’

While nationalisation may be restricted it is not banned or illegal. This is a widely-believed myth, promoted, in particular, by the anti-EU “left”.

In Italy the government took control of the Ilva steelworks last year to save 16,000 jobs. Then the firm was handed £74 million for “environmental improvements” – ie direct state aid.

Germany also provides aid to its regional governments on the understanding that steel produced in the country is used on any German building or engineering projects. Germany also operates the part-publicly-funded Gesellschaft, a research organisation that provides applied science for companies that would otherwise find the cost prohibitive.

In 2012 French president Hollande threatened to nationalise Arcelor Mittal steel’s operations in the Lorraine plateau in order to save the blast furnaces of Florange and their 2,500 jobs. He didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about any EU state-aid rules. Ironically, Hollande’s threat was denounced by Boris Johnson – now a leading light of the Brexit campaign.

In a written answer to Labour Euro-MP Jude Kirton-Darling at the time of the Redcar steelworks closure last year, the European Commission confirmed that the UK Government could have given state aid to support the steelworks. Here are some of the ways that other EU governments have intervened to support their domestic steel industries, and other energy intensive industries. There are also examples of regional governments taking initiatives in Germany and Spain.

(Temporary) Renationalisation

In early 2015, the Italian Government temporarily renationalised the Ilva Steel works in Taranto, Southern Italy. The Italian government cited the unabated toxic emissions and very poor environmental standards, which had led to unusually high rates of cancer in the area around the plant. It is estimated that it will cost €1.8bn to make Ilva compliant with the Industrial Emissions Directive’s standards. This decision is currently subject to a complaint from EUROFER (European steel industry association) under state aid rules.

Investment in strategic R&D facilities

The French government are providing state-aid to the ArcelorMittal plant at Florange, in France to support their ongoing R&D work, this follows on from a long running industrial dispute over the closing of two blast furnaces. This public support comes to a total of €20-50 million over 4 years, with a further 33 million been raised in public-private investment.

Support for energy efficiency/environmental technologies

In 2010, the European Commission accepted German state aid of €19.1 million for an energy-saving steel production project run by Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH, a subsidiary of the Salzgitter AG group. The aid will allow Salzgitter to produce steel through an innovative production process, Direct Strip Casting (DSC), which consumes less energy than alternative processes. The aid is in line with EU guidelines on State aid for environmental objectives (see IP/08/80) because on balance, the positive effects for the environment largely outweigh potential distortions of competition.

Loan guarantees

In 2010, before the May elections (which saw a change in Government), the UK Labour government was willing to provide Sheffield steel producer Forgemasters with an £80m loan to develop new technologies as part of a supply chain for nuclear reactors. While ultimately the new government withdrew this offer, the reasoning for a change of heart was ideological and not related to European State-Aid rules.

Taking a public stake in a steel company

Following the sale of 20.5% of shares in ‘NLMK Belgium Sogepa Holdings SA’ for 91.1 million euros ($123 million), the Belgian public authorities have a shareholding in a new company producing steel which owns steel plants in Belgium, France and Italy. NBH employs about 1,000 people in Belgium, while the European division employs 2,530 people in total. The engagement of the Belgian public authorities has helped strengthen the commitment of the Russian group, and transformed the company carrying the steel business in public private joint venture with the financial support of the Walloon region.

Compensation for energy costs

A range of German Government industry policy interventions provide German industry as a whole, including its energy intensive industries, with a range of long established reliefs from energy and climate change-related duties, levies and taxes:

Over the period 2010-2012 Germany’s support for its EIIs were worth 26bn euros, or some 8bn euros (£6.4bn) a year (table 2).
Support covers thousands of firms. Unlike the UK package, support is not confined to specific sectors.
At company level, in Germany compensation is available for 90% (or in the case of larger and energy intense consumers, 100%) of electricity taxes.

In Sweden, the PFE programme aims to encourage, through incentives (reductions in the amount of energy taxes), energy-intensive industries to improve their energy efficiency. This is a long-term agreement involving the Swedish government, the energy-intensive industries and trade unions. The duration of this program is 5 years. 117 industrial companies are involved in this project (i.e. 250 plants). The Swedish Energy Agency monitors and controls the programme. The Programme Board, established in 2005, brings together representatives from government, business, trade unions and employers as well as research centers. Both with an advisory and regulatory purpose, the Board meets four times a year. After only two years of existence, more than 900 measures were implemented or underway. These measures cost the companies € 110 million but benefited from a rapid return on investment (two years on average). They have saved about 1 TWh per year of electricity, i.e. from 500 kT to 1 million tons of CO2, and a total of € 55 million. In 2010, it doubled its objectives.

Using the powers of the official receiver to support employment & attracting buyers for troubled plants

In November 2014, the Italian government agreed to sell Italy’s second-largest steelmaker Lucchini’s Piombino complex to family-owned Algerian conglomerate Cevital. Lucchini was previously owned by Russia’s Severstal but was declared insolvent in 2012 and placed into special administration. The company received two offers for its core assets in Piombino, one from Cevital and the other from India’s JSW Steel. The government administrator said the Cevital offer was more attractive as it foresaw full employment at Piombino. The Piombino complex employs about 2,000 people and can produce up to 2.5 million tonnes of steel a year.

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