Melenchon: France should renegotiate EU treaties or leave!

jean-Luc Melenchon

FRENCH socialist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said that France should leave the EU if it proves impossible to renegotiate treaties that are “incompatible” with his party’s socialist programme.

Withdrawal from European Treaties. 

A vocal critic of the European Union, Jean-Luc Mélenchon supports an immediate exit of the current treaties, whether it be hand-in-hand with other countries with the option of renegotiating a new framework of cooperation, or independently. He also urges the French people to respect the decision by the UK to leave the European Union. France would seek to facilitate Brexit without “any spirit of vengeance or punishment”.

He dubbed President Emmanuel Macron a “photocopier” for the European Union and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech at Amfis, the summer festival of his party La France Insoumise, in Marseille.

Mr Melenchon encouraged supporters to give Mr Macron a “democratic beating” in next spring’s elections to the European Parliament, assuring the crowd of 3,000 supporters that the election could be turned into an “anti-Macron referendum.”

“When you hold a referendum on Mr Macron, you are holding a referendum on Europe, because Mr Macron does not exist — he is just a little photocopier of the European Union and Ms Merkel.”

Mr Melenchon condemned the EU, saying that European leaders are to blame for the decline of French public services and infrastructure, warning that people are beginning to “discover” the EU programme of liberalisation.

Liberalisation is the process of selling of public services to the open market better know in the UK as privatisation.

Right now in France the state owned French railways are being forced into liberalisation following the fourth railway package

Fourth railway package

The market pillar will complete the process of gradual market opening started with the 1st railway package. It establishes the general right for railway undertakings established in one Member State to operate all types of passenger services everywhere in the EU, lays down rules aimed at improving impartiality in the governance of railway infrastructure and preventing discrimination and introduces the principle of mandatory tendering for public service contracts in rail. Competition in rail passenger service markets will encourage railway operators to become more responsive to customer needs, improve the quality of their services and their cost-effectiveness.  The competitive tendering of public service contracts will enable savings of public money. The market pillar is expected to deliver more choice and better quality of rail services for European citizens, these being the overriding objectives.

Though the reforms were not on French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘to do’ list when he ran for election last May, the politically charged showdown with trade unions they triggered may come to define his presidency.

Why is Macron doing this?

The SNCF reform plans fit in with the 40-year-old former banker’s pledge to modernise the economy.

Macron is pro-business, pro-liberalisation and intent on tackling all of which help to explain why he chose to tackle the railway monopoly.

The SNCF’s monopoly on domestic passenger rail begins to expire during Macron’s 2017-2022 term.

Competitive tendering starts EU-wide in 2019

The French government used direct decrees to push through Macron’s labour market reforms in 2017, which also sparked protests and gave rise to accusations that it was skirting parliament and undermining democracy.

In parallel to any legislative changes, the SNCF’s state-appointed chairman Guillaume Pepy is negotiating internally with the unions to settle more granular aspects of company organisation.

Why all the fuss about legal structure?

Under the reform plans, the SNCF’s legal corporate status would change from a state enterprise (known as an EPIC) to what is known in many other countries as a limited or joint-stock company.

To make the SNCF more competitive, the government believes it should be a legal entity in its own right, with more independent management.

It is also under pressure to shake-up the SNCF’s structure after EU court rulings against the EPIC structure of La Poste, that led the French post office to become a limited company while remaining state-owned.

Opponents fear that creating a limited company is the first step towards privatisation and point to former state telecoms monopoly France Telecom as an example.

The government insists the SNCF will remain fully state-owned.

What’s the EU got to do with it?

Unlike its neighbors, France has been slow to open its rail market to competition. The EU’s latest batch of sector regulation calls on countries to allow private companies to challenge their state monopolies such as SNCF from 2020. That means Paris has to get a move on with reforms to its railway sector.

The liberalizing schedule proposed by Transport Minister Élisabeth Borne stated new companies should be allowed to run intercity trains from next year, with private operators challenging SNCF on high-speed TGV lines in 2020. But the government will also allow regions to sign another decade-long contract with SNCF before a deadline for bringing in competition on their networks passes in 2023. After that, franchise-style contracts should be offered for running chunks of regional networks.

Outside France, SNCF has reaped some benefits from the liberalized system. The company owns a 70 percent stake in Keolis, which operates services on part of the fully liberalized British network.

That has prompted grumbles from some of France’s European partners. Unions in the U.K. complain about foreign profit-draining from their railways, and Germans point out that while they allow private companies to challenge Deutsche Bahn, their state rail giant doesn’t have the same opportunities across the Rhine in France.

The CGT union, the most powerful rail union, objects to the entire shake-up of the SNCF. It rejects the end of the monopoly and the liberalisation programmed under the EU’s so-called Fourth Package rail deregulation rules, agreed in 2016.

This one issue is not the only impasse the French Socialist have with the EU

There is the question of the European Union. Mélenchon is against it. Mélenchon regards the European institutions, and especially the Euro, as a form of German imperialism. He says that Brussels has become an agent of the Anglo-saxon obsession with markets, competition and money. He wants to scrap all the present treaties and start again.

Mélenchon attended the Labour Party conference where he was reported to have said:
The “red thread” that united him and Corbyn, was “people’s will to take back control of their situation when faced with bankrupt parties, institutions and figures … this is an extraordinarily powerful political force and in France it’s exploded the traditional political terrain. He observed:

If the Brits want to nationalise the trains, it’s because the trains don’t work, it’s not an ideological motivation.

Mr Melenchon said that the left’s project of “social and tax harmonisation from above” is incompatible with current European Union treaties and said that La France Insoumise’s plan for the EU is twofold.

There is a “plan A” for renegotiation of treaties perceived to be anti-democratic and a “plan B” for an organised departure of France from the EU if this proves impossible.

“People will be voting [La France Insoumise] to tell Macron: Stop! We are fed up! Get out [of office]!”

La France Insoumise will contest the spring 2019 European elections in the “Now — the people!” electoral alliance, which also includes Podemos in Spain, the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark and Portugal’s Left Bloc.

As well as being a staunch critic of Mr Macron and the EU, Mr Melenchon, who received nearly 20 per cent of the vote in last year’s presidential election has also called for France to leave Nato and the IMF.

Melenchon is more than an interesting character being both a real threat to the EU and Macron who at present bathes in the lowest ever recorded popularity an unprecedented for a French President.

Macron the former investment banker has sold his pro-business reform drive on promises that it will boost growth and jobs, but many voters ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich.

It is worth noting that  the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was held in France on 20 September 1992. It was approved by only 51% of the voters.

The result of the referendum, known as the “petit oui”, along with the Danish “No” vote are considered to be signals of the end of the “permissive consensus” on European integration which had existed in most of continental Europe until then.

From this point forward issues relating to European integration were subject to much greater scrutiny across much of Europe, and overt euroscepticism gained prominence.

Only France, Ireland and Denmark held referendums on Maastricht ratification.

Opponents included the French Communist Party (PCF) and far-left parties such as the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) or Workers’ Struggle (LO), who opposed what they considered as an advance of neo-liberalism

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