Maastricht: The Protectionism of Free Trade

by Nicholas Hildyard

first published 2 February 1993


In 1986, the 12 member states of the European Economic Community signed the Single European Act which committed them to dismantling all legislative barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital and people between them by 31 December 1992. The Single Market which created a free trade zone encompassing 340 million people is designed to protect the multinational interests that have long lobbied for its creation and which are now the dominant economic and political force within Europe. The Treaty on European Union -- commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty after the Dutch town where it was signed in February 1992 by EEC heads of government -- gives those multinational interests the legal powers and administrative apparatus of a full-blown state.



In 1986, the twelve member states of the European Economic Community signed the Single European Act which committed them to dismantling all legislative barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital and people between them by 31 December, 1992. The Single Market now in force has created a free trade zone encompassing 340 million people, a market constructed to protect the multinational interests that have long lobbied for its creation and which are now the dominant economic and political force within Europe. The Treaty on European Union -- commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty after the Dutch town where it was signed in February 1992 by EEC heads of government -- will, if ratified by all member states, give those multinational interests the legal powers and administrative apparatus of a full-blown state.

Europe is a construct, defined by economic and political interests rather than physical geography or a common "culture". This construct has varied throughout the region's history: for the Ancient Greeks, Europe was the land mass behind the Greek mainland; later, it was the domain of the great European powers -- the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon's France or the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs.

In 1957, Europe acquired a new definition when six countries founded the European Economic Community (EEC) under the Treaty of Rome, another six joining by 1986.1 Europe (as it is understood in the boardrooms of Tokyo or New York, or in the pubs of Britain) now means the EEC. Greece, although separated from the rest of Europe by a host of non-European (that is, non-EEC) countries, is nonetheless part of Europe; Finland, although it features on maps of northern Europe, is not; Britain was "out" but is now "in", and Norway is still deciding.

The glue that holds this new Europe together is a set of mutually-advantageous trading arrangements, ranging from open borders to common standards, between the most powerful economic interest groups in the 12 individual states that now make up the EEC. National regulations to protect home industries have gradually been replaced by Europe-wide regulations that protect those industries with "European" (and, increasingly, global) reach. The nation state has been pushed into the background as the unit of economic administration: sovereignty has shifted to pan-European factions within government and business, operating through the institutions that make up the EEC.

Modernization and Change

From its inception, the EEC was set on turning its members into dynamic, industrial economies, able to compete on the world market. In the case of France, joining the EEC was part of a wider plan to transform the country from a largely rural society into an industrial state, initiated by a core group of government technocrats under the slogan "Modernization or Downfall". By ripping open the protectionist cocoon around France's major industries, the EEC would force them to compete, allowing the few "enclaves of modernism" that had emerged out of post-war reconstruction to break free from the shackles of "La Vielle France" -- the France of pampered national industries, of "lazy" peasants who refused to leave the land to supply labour to industry, and of rural, guild or family-based businesses, content to produce for the local market.2 The strategy had already worked with the steel industry which had been shocked into modernizing after France's entry in 1951 into the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), "that valuable dress rehearsal for the [EEC]".3 As Jean Monnet, a principle architect of France's post-war modernization programme, recalled in 1968, "Back in 1946, we tried to persuade the Loire steel industry to modernize but they refused. They began to do so only in 1953, under pressure from [ECSC], and through fear of competition from [German] Lorraine steel."4

Within two years of signing the Treaty of Rome, France was transformed from one of the most protectionist economies in Europe to one of the most "open", its tariffs being cut by 90 per cent. The impact on the economy was dramatic: between 1958 and 1962, France doubled its overall exports and trebled its exports to other EEC members. In chemicals and automobiles, French exports to Germany alone rose more than eightfold. As John Ardagh, writing in 1968, commented in his book The New France: De Gaulle and After:

"In every field, the average French firm's attitude to exports and productivity has changed strikingly in the last ten years ... With the coming of the [EEC], many smaller firms have hurriedly joined forces to create new export subsidiaries, and for the first time are stirring outside their frontiers."5

Those businesses which could not compete against foreign or domestic rivals were rapidly edged out of business. Thousands of "inefficient" small family businesses -- often committed to high craftsmanship but low sales -- were pushed into bankruptcy, taken over or forced to merge.6

Even where EEC programmes overtly aimed to preserve the status quo -- as, for example, in the Common Agricultural Policy's commitment to maintaining farmers on the land by ensuring a fair standard of living for the agricultural community-- the underlying rationale was still one of modernization and change. As David Goodman and Michael Redclift note in their seminal book, From Peasant to Proletarian:

"During the 1950s and 1960s, the attempt to design 'European' agricultural policies in the countries of the EEC, although a political stumbling block, was also in some respects a sine qua non for re-establishing a viable industrial economy, as well as a means of gaining the tacit support of much of the rural population for supranational planning. Without increases in agricultural production, largely effected through price supports and subsidy mechanisms, it would have proved more difficult to provide a 'breathing space' in which population shifts could occur, and without which industry would be starved of manpower."7

The thrust of the EEC's agricultural policy has thus been to manage, rather than stem, the displacement of small family farmers from the land through manipulating prices and support programmes, on the one hand, and through retraining, early retirement schemes and "structural development" programmes on the other -- and it has been remarkably successful.8 A rural exodus on a scale unparalleled in European history has been deliberately stimulated, leaving the countryside dominated by large, modern, industrial farms. Again, the French example is illustrative. In 1939, 35 per cent of the French population worked on the land; by 1968, that figure was down to 17 per cent; and today, it is less than 5 per cent, the number of farms falling from 1.6 million in 1970 to 1 million in 1990, with the average size of a farm rising from 19 hectares to 31 hectares.9

The Single Market

In France, as in other EEC countries, the restructuring of post-war Europe was never politically-neutral. As multinationalism has grown in political strength since 1945, so regimes that protected domestic interests have been edged out by regimes that protect European and increasingly multinational interests: the rules of trade have been rewritten (albeit after considerable political wrangling) to create what free traders call "a level playing field" -- a pitch that is "level" for those whose commercial interests demand untrammelled access to markets within Europe and abroad. For those who rely on local markets, however, or who find themselves on the periphery of this Europe, the playing field is far from level: from their point of view, it is deliberately inclined against them.

Nowhere is that bias more evident than in the rules and regulations that have come into force as a result of the 1986 Single Act, under which EEC member states agreed to dismantle all remaining national legislative barriers to the free movement between their countries of goods, services, capital and people (the "four freedoms") by 31 December, 1992. By signing the Single Act, the 12 EEC countries effectively agreed to subordinate their national or regional interests to the longer-term (and supposedly shared) interests of creating an EEC-wide free trade zone out of which, it was hoped, European-based companies of sufficient size and strength would emerge to "rise to the competitive challenge posed by the USA and Japan".10 In future, the sole benchmark for deciding on what constitutes a barrier to the four freedoms would be the competitiveness of European companies in the Single Market.

The project was business-driven from the start -- the proposal for the Single Market was drafted by, among others, Wisse Dekker, the Chief Executive of Philips, and Giovanni Agnelli, head of Italy's FIAT conglomerate11 -- and business has used the process of setting up the Market to boost profits at the expense of product quality; to drive smaller companies out of business; and to undermine (or block) environmental and public health measures deemed onerous to business.

To facilitate the free flow of goods between countries, the process of making product standards the same in each country ("harmonizing" in Eurospeak) was moved up the agenda to become a top priority. In the area of food standards, the European Commission agreed that any foodstuff could be sold, provided it complied with certain public health rules and its label contained specified information for consumers.12 National food and drink standards have thus been abolished in favour of EEC ones, often bringing lower costs for business but lower food quality for the consumer. Germany's beer producers, for example, are projected to save 22 per cent of their production costs,13 following the rescinding of the country's age-old "pure beer" laws, the Reinheitsgenbot, which stipulated that beer could only be made from hops and barley, with no additives or sugar. In Britain, where food standards were scrapped in 1986, one study found that on average the amount of meat in meat products fell from 46 per cent to 31 per cent following deregulation of national food quality rules.14

Harmonization has led to a lowering of standards in other areas as well. The number of EEC permitted food additives has been expanded, so that food producers in Germany and Greece, for example, can now choose from 412 additives whereas under national legislation they were restricted to using just 120 of them. As Dr. Tim Lang of the British-based consumer group Parents for Safe Food comments: "In the negotiations for EEC-wide standards, multinational food manufacturing interests have got what they wanted. Consumers have been urging a reduction in additive use: industry has got an expansion." In several instances, banned additives will be legal again: Britain, for example, will be obliged to allow the import of foods containing cyclamate sweeteners, despite contrary government health department advice because cyclamates are suspected carcinogens.15

Conversely, where larger industries have seen an opportunity to use tighter standards to squeeze smaller competitors, they have seized it. In the meat industry, more stringent hygiene standards have been pushed through the EEC with the support of large slaughterhouse interests.16 Unable to afford to implement the new regulations, half of the estimated 600 slaughterhouses in Britain, many of them local, family-owned concerns, will in all likelihood be driven out of business, their trade being picked up by the larger abattoirs. Local butchers are likely to be affected too, since the larger slaughterhouses tend to sell direct to supermarkets, further concentrating the meat industry into fewer and fewer hands.

Cries of "trade barrier" have also been raised against laws to protect the environment. In 1987, the Belgian province of Wallonia was taken to court by the European Commission for prohibiting the import of toxic waste into the province, a block to the free movement of goods between community members (under EEC law, waste -- however toxic -- is deemed a legitimate and tradeable "good"). In October 1992, an EEC-wide compromise was reached by EEC environment ministers under which national authorities may prohibit the importation of waste for disposal but not for recovery (for instance, through recycling or processing). However, this leaves the law wide open to legal abuse: as Greenpeace notes: "For any waste stream, a 'recovery operation' can be invented to justify its export no matter how technologically or environmentally senseless."17

Corporate Concentration

With the playing field levelled in their favour and capital free to move throughout the EEC, multinational interests have received in abundance what the Cecchini Report, a 1988 analysis of the projected economic benefits of the Single Market, promised them: cheaper costs and more convivial standards.18 One result has been a spate of take-overs and mergers -- Europe's 1,000 leading firms more than doubled their mergers and acquisitions between 1986 and 1989 -- creating multinational giants whose influence on government, and whose control of trade, is pan-European.19 Larger firms have snapped up smaller ones to gain control of local distribution networks or to get rid of rival brand products. In banking, soft drinks and paints, the top five companies now control 38 per cent, 50 per cent and 25 per cent of their respective markets. Of the 39 companies that dominated the European trade in household appliances in the 1970s, 34 had been swallowed up by 1990, leaving the five largest in control of some 60 per cent of the market.20 In other areas too, there have been mergers. In two of the biggest cross-border deals of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Siemens of Germany and Britain's GEC jointly acquired Plessey, the British electronics firm, while Carnaud of France and Metal Box of Britain merged to form CMB packaging.21

Core and Periphery

As a union of multinational business interests rather than a "union of the peoples of Europe" (the stated objective of the Treaty of Rome), the EEC has split its domain into a core and a periphery. The result is not One Europe but several.22 Running through the centre lies the EEC's productive heartland -- the industrial belt that begins in northern Britain, runs down through eastern France and western Germany and ends abruptly in northern Italy. Within that belt lies the Europe of the service industries, of banking and administration -- the so-called "golden banana"23 stretching from London through Brussels to Milan. Outside those core areas (and, embarrassingly, also within them) lies Peripheral Europe: run-down black spots whose industries are not competitive; areas whose peasant way of life does not match the EEC's vision of the future; areas deemed fit only to supply cheap labour to the pan-European commercial interests that dominate the core.

Free to go anywhere they want to in Europe, companies have sought to invest their capital wherever it will earn the highest returns. High technology sectors such as the electronics industry are favoured over less productive sectors; areas of cheap or unorganized labour over areas where wages are high or where trade unions are strong. Poorer rural areas with low wages or where farmers find it hard to remain on the land are thus targeted for "development". With the average worker paid less than $4 an hour in Portugal, compared with $13 in Germany and almost $16 in Denmark, it is "no wonder that German companies now seem keener on sunnier climes."24 As with investment by Northern interests in Third World countries, the major beneficiaries are primarily those in the metropolitan "core" areas to which profits are repatriated.

Demands for higher wages are met by threats to transfer production elsewhere. As the World Council of Churches (WCC) notes:

"Manufacturers can, with the benefit of new technology, divide up their operations between different countries and shift production from one country to another when economic conditions dictate that they should ... This has been done against the odds until now because of the many fiscal, technical and other barriers that still exist between the EEC countries; it will become extremely simple after 1992."25

For employers, Europe's labour market is now a "buyer's market", as areas of high unemployment seek to attract investment by undercutting their competitors' pay and conditions. The 1993 decision by Hoover Europe to close its Longvic plant in France and switch production to Cambus--lang near Glasgow, for example, was secured in large part by the Scottish workforce agreeing to accept limited period contracts for new workers, constraints on the right to strike, cuts in overtime, a year-long freeze in wages, flexible working time and practices and the introduction of video cameras on the factory floor.26 Such "beggar-my-neighbour" tactics -- however understandable -- have led to accusations of "social dumping" as workers in one region find themselves losing their jobs to a more compliant workforce elsewhere. Yet the jobs created by social dumping will generally have little security. As the WCC notes:

"The new workforce predicated by 1992 consists of a slimmed down, highly trained and skilled core of workers for electronics, research and 'sunrise' industries, and a mass of 'flexible' unskilled workers in, for example, building and construction, service industries, garment manufacture and food processing, who can be taken on, laid off, employed part-time, and moved around the Community as required."27

Increased Marginalization

The increasing migration of workers in search of jobs and the widening of economic differences between poor and rich regions is likely to be greatly exacerbated by the economic and monetary union proposed under the Maastricht Treaty. At present, an EEC country which is faced with high production costs relative to its other EEC partners can devalue its currency, increasing the cost of its imports and decreasing the cost of its exports. With the adoption of a single European currency -- a central plank of the Maastricht Treaty -- that option will no longer be available. Uncompetitive countries will have little option but to adjust their economies through wage restraint, further deregulation, increased productivity, lower taxation and higher unemployment.28

For free marketeers, such enforced restructuring is a necessary -- if painful -- step in forging a leaner economy to compete on the world market. But others are less sanguine. They point to the experience of countries such as Italy where the adoption of a single currency (albeit over a century ago) has contributed to a widening of the disparities between rich and poor regions. Not only has available capital from the poorer regions been sucked into the richer areas, but employment opportunities in the more competitive Northern states have attracted the unemployed from the South, fuelling a xenophobic backlash and creating an underclass of despised and exploited economic migrants. To prevent such migration, the Italian government has sought to subsidize the South through social funds -- further fuelling Northern resentment against the South since much of the money is generated by Northern industry.29 One result is the emergence of separatist movements, such as the Lombardy League, the Venetian League and the Tuscan League, all of which now capture a major proportion of votes in national and regional elections. Grounded in a hostility to "foreigners", such separatist movements, many of which are neo-fascist, will be further boosted both by Maastricht's commitment to encourage the free movement of workers (in effect, economic migrants) and by social dumping. As such movements gain ground, so racial violence and ethnic tensions will be greatly increased.

Social Funds: Further Disparity

Recognizing the centrifugal tendencies of the Single Market and monetary union, Article 130C of the Maastricht Treaty provides for increased central funding of regional development programmes,30 while other articles, such as the Social Chapter, aim to "protect" the citizens of Europe from the likely social and economic fallout of economic union.

It is a moot point, however, whether the beneficiaries of regional development funds are Europe's citizens or EEC multinationals, because such funding has been used to break open local economies and force local communities into the economic mainstream. In Spain, for example, the EEC's structural funds have been used to introduce intensive, export-oriented agriculture at great cost to local livelihoods, exacerbating regional inequalities and transforming cultural diversity into economic disparity.31

Maastricht's social programmes are similarly biased towards industrial goals. Under the heading "Economic and Social Cohesion", Article 130A directs governments to reduce the "backwardness" of their "least-favoured areas", in particular "rural areas", with the assistance of the EEC Structural Fund.32 Grants made from the proposed European Social Fund are aimed at restructuring the workforce to meet the demands of industry: to "improve employment opportunities for workers in the internal market ... to render the employment of workers easier, to increase their geographical and occupational mobility within the community."33 To that end, an EEC-wide vocational training programme will "facilitate adaptation to industrial change, ease integration into the labour market, facilitate access to vocational training, encourage mobility of instructors and trainees, stimulate co-operation between training establishments and firms, and develop information exchanges."

Maastricht's Social Chapter offers more of the same. It may provide for workers' rights, but like its 1989 predecessor, the Social Charter, it is concerned primarily with ensuring a pliable workforce. Of the Charter, Frances Webber has written:

"Just by looking at the stated aims of the Charter, we can see that it is not interested in people, but only in efficient and productive units of labour: that it is not interested in the economically inactive, but only in workers; and that it is not interested in democracy or giving people any control over their own lives, but is basically about management [and manipulation] ... There is, for example, no right to housing, no right to education (as opposed to vocational training), no right to health facilities outside of work, and no political rights whatsoever."34

The same criticism may be made just as forcefully of the Social Chapter.

Shifts of Power

With completion of the Single Market, the political economy of Europe has been dramatically reshaped. Implementation of the Maastricht Treaty will shift power still further from national interest groups with domestic constituencies to multinational interest groups, unfettered by local allegiances. The process has been self-reinforcing. Firstly, as economic power has become concentrated in the hands of an ever smaller group of multinational companies, so their grip on EEC economic policy has grown. Secondly, as more people have become dependent for their livelihoods on inter-European trade, so political support for multinational factions within government and commerce has broadened and deepened within Europe. And, thirdly, by providing a power base outside of national politics, the EEC has enabled multinational interests that may be relatively powerless in any given country to increase their bargaining power by building up alliances with like-minded groups in other member states, using the European Commission rather than national governments to push for policies favourable to their goals.

Even non-EEC states have been unable to remain aloof of the process: the gravitational pull exerted by a powerful trading block such as the EEC has undermined national sovereignty, regardless of Community membership. The pressure on the Swiss to develop their transport infrastructure for the benefit of the EEC is symptomatic of the process as the country is drawn inexorably into the European nexus. As The Economist also comments:

"What is the point of Switzerland priding itself on secretive banking laws, when the big Swiss banks, now multinational, have to reveal all in countries where the rules are different ... The greater the intimacy, the more meaningless it becomes to distinguish trade with neighbours from commerce at home, and the less feasible it becomes to regulate commerce nationally. For good or ill, the technology of moving goods, services, people and money around has ousted the European nation as the convenient unit of economic administration."35

Maastricht and The Multinational State

Another reason why national governments are no longer convenient is because, despite being EEC members, they cannot be relied upon to implement EEC rules where they conflict with still powerful domestic interests. In 1991, Italy, for example, failed to implement 22 of the European Court's rulings on fair trade practices. In mid-1991, only 37 of the 126 Single Market laws that should have been implemented were operating in all 12 member states.36 As Zymunt Tyskiewicz of UNICE, the largest federation of European industrial interests, complains, "There are key sectors in which progress [towards a borderless market] has been blocked, such as harmonization of Value Added Tax. This is very frustrating for businessmen."37

The new power brokers of Europe, the business community, are thus seeking political institutions and fiscal arrangements which suit their needs -- new governing bodies, beholden to no national constituency and beyond the control of ordinary citizens. It is precisely such new arrangements that the Maastricht Treaty will provide. National sovereignty, having been "pooled" through the Treaty of Rome and the Single Market, will now be dissolved away for good through the acid bath of political and fiscal union. The new sovereigns will be the multinational managers, their administrative capital will be Brussels, and their flag of convenience that of the EEC.

Concentrating Power

In post-Maastricht Europe, national governments will surrender all control over monetary policy to an unelected body, the European Monetary Institute (EMI) which will formulate "the overall orientation of monetary policy and exchange rate policy."38 Its proceedings will be confidential and its decisions binding.39 Policies currently favoured by multinational interests -- essentially monetarism and free trade -- will be required of all member states by law, the Treaty stipulating that the EMI:

" ... will operate without prejudice to the responsibility of national authorities for the conduct of monetary policy. Its primary objective will be to maintain price stability ... It will act in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition, favouring an efficient allocation of resources."40

Once a single currency -- much favoured by business, since it will save an estimated $13 billion in currency conversion costs41 -- has been achieved, the EMI's role will be assumed by a European System of Central Banks (ESCB), comprising a European Central Bank (ECB) and the central banks of EEC states. The ESCB will essentially be governed by the unelected officials of the executive board of the ECB,42 the deliberations of which will be confidential. "Members of the governing bodies and the staff of the ECB and the national central banks will be required, even after their duties have ceased, not to disclose information covered by professional secrecy."43 As in all the other institutions set up under Maastricht, the Treaty requires that "neither the ECB nor a national central bank will take instructions from EC institutions, governments or any other body."44

The ECB will have the sole right to issue bank notes within the community and will act as an internal International Monetary Fund (IMF), supervising national economies and ensuring that they adhere to the Central Bank's monetarist policies. Governments will be required to balance their budgets, a budgetary deficit exceeding three per cent of GNP being forbidden unless "the deficit reflects investment".45 Where a member state persistently fails to reduce its deficit, the European Council of Ministers, acting on the recommendation of the ECB, may "require it to publish information before issuing bonds, invite the European Investment Bank to reconsider its lending policy, require the member state to pay a deposit, and impose fines."46 In effect, governments will only be able to borrow money for productive investment: borrowing money for social programmes which do not yield a financial return -- health programmes, for example, or higher pensions and welfare benefits for the poor -- will be almost impossible.

Power from the People

EEC institutions, with their bias towards multinationalism, will also gain control over other crucial areas of policy. Under the Treaty, the legislative framework, which national legislation cannot conflict with, for 17 key areas of policy will be set by the European Commission, a body of 13 unelected bureaucrats "chosen for their general competence"47 and obliged by law "neither to seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body."48 All legislation proposed by the Commission must be submitted to the Council of Ministers, a body of ministerial representatives of each member state who would have the authority to make decisions on behalf of that member state.49 The Maastricht Treaty extends the areas where the Council can act by a qualified majority rather than by unanimity, thus weakening the power of member states to veto legislation and policy.

Once adopted by the Council, proposals must be referred to the European Parliament, the only EC institution whose members are directly elected by the peoples of Europe.50 Although the Maastricht Treaty extends the areas over which the Parliament currently has a right of veto, its new powers are in many respects illusory. On the major issues of state -- those relating to economic and monetary policy, foreign affairs and defence, fiscal policy, trade agreements with foreign countries, competition policy, taxation, state aid to industry, export policies, measures to protect trade or implement subsidies, regional development policy, Third World development -- there are no rights of veto. In these areas, the role of the Parliament is either purely consultative or restricted to making amendments only; if the Parliament rejects a proposal in any of these areas, the Council can (on a unanimous vote) still adopt it.51

The powers surrendered by national parliaments under Maastricht -- powers which allow elected representatives to have a say over all areas of policy -- are not recovered by the European Parliament. Any checks and balances on the Commission have been framed in such a way that fundamental societal choices will be left to a handful of ministers and bureaucrats. Far from creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, "in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen",52 Maastricht will strip decision-making away from elected bodies, concentrating it in the hands of a cluster of institutions that are largely unaccountable and which have only come into existence to promote the pan-European multinationalism that lies at the heart of the EEC.

Proponents of Maastricht counter such charges by pointing to the Treaty's commitment to political "subsidiarity", article 3B stipulating:

"In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the community shall take action in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed acts cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the community."

The concept of subsidiarity, however, remains ill-defined (if defined at all); if intended to ensure that decision-making is taken at the lowest level, it is over-ridden by virtually every other provision in the Treaty.53 Indeed, if the subsidiarity principle is exercised, it seems likely to be invoked to support business interests seeking to undermine "interfering" EEC legislation intended, for example, to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of the Single Market. Thus Britain, for example, has already hinted that it will use Article 3B to support its case for watering down domestic legislation required under the European Commission's Bathing and Drinking Water Directives.54

Growing Unease

Despite the dominance of multinational interests over today's European economy and their increasing control over its political institutions, the Maastricht project is faltering -- primarily as a result of citizen concern, often in alliance with threatened domestic interest groups, at the lengthening of the distance between them and these institutions. The Danes have rejected the Treaty in its present form and the French only narrowly voted in its favour. In Britain, it is having a rough ride through Parliament. Hasty summit meetings have been convened by Europe's heads of states to clarify the Treaty's application so as to make it more acceptable -- but despite minor amendments, the substance remains the same.

The failure of Maastricht would undoubtedly be a severe setback to the forces of multinationalism. But there would still be major challenges to overcome: with or without Maastricht, the Single Market would still remain in force and with it, social dumping, a growing gap between Europe's core and periphery, and a Europe ripe for those who would exploit such social tensions to further their own political ends. In France, the National Front, which has capitalized on Maastricht to spread its message of xenophobic nationalism, lurks in the political wings, whilst in Britain the main opponents of Maastricht seek not to check market forces but to find means of extending them without the sovereignty-sapping institutions proposed by the Treaty.

In such circumstances, it is all the more urgent for opposition to the Maastricht Treaty to be seen within the frame of the more general struggle to reclaim the commons, to regenerate local markets and production, to protect the environment, to ally the fight for the environment to the fight for social justice, and to bring decision-making back to the local. The issue is not "protectionism versus free trade", since all trading systems are protectionist of someone's interests: the issue is who should control trade and in whose interests -- multinational _lites, national _lites or local people and their communities?


1 The six founders were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and West Germany. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973, Greece in 1981, and Portugal and Spain in 1986.

2 See, for example, Ardagh, J., The New France: De Gaulle and After, Pelican, Harmondsworth, 1970, pp.32, 44 and 207.

3 Ardagh, J., op. cit. 2, p.47. France's entry into the European Coal and Steel Community was fiercely opposed by Le Patronat Fran_ais, the principle federation of big employers.

4 Ibid., p.47.

5 Ibid., pp.48-49.

6 Ibid., p.51.

7 Goodman, D. and Redclift, M., From Peasant to Proletarian: Capitalist Development and Agrarian Transitions, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1981, p.16.

8 Ibid., p.21.

9 Ardagh, J., op. cit. 2, p.121. See also "Trouble in the fields of Elysium", The Economist, 19 September, 1992, pp.23-26.

10 Robins, N., "The Reinvention of Europe: Background Report for the Other European Summit, 11 December 1992", The New Economics Foundation, London, 1992, p.5.

11 "On the Defensive", The Economist, (Business in Europe: Special Report), 8 June, 1991, p.5.

12 Lang, T., Food fit for the World: How the GATT food trade talks challenge public health, the environment and the citizen, The SAFE Alliance/The Public Health Alliance, London, 1992, p.19.

13 Ibid., citing Cecchini, P., The European Challenge 1992, European Commission and Wildwood House, London, 1988.

14 Ibid, citing Trading Standards Department, Report to the Committee on Meat Content, Shropshire County Council, 1986.

15 Ibid, citing Millstone, E., "Consumer Protection Policies in the EC: The Quality of Food", in Freeman, C. et al. (eds.), Technology and the Future of Europe, Pinter, London, 1991.

16 Aubrey, C., "When the Killing has to Stop", The Guardian Weekend, 17 October, 1992.

17 "Waste Exports to the Third World and Eastern Europe: Implications of the Environment Ministers' Decision", Greenpeace Briefing Document on the Environment Ministers' Decision of 20 October, 1992. Greenpeace's scepticism was confirmed when Spanish authorities discovered that a consignment of plastic waste imported from Germany for "recycling" had been dumped illegally. See MacKenzie, D., "Europe continues 'poison my neighbour' exports... ", New Scientist, 7 November, 1992, p.8.

18 Lang, T. and Hines, C., "Protecting Our Future: The Case against Free Trade and for the New Protectionism", Draft (August 1992), p.28.

19 For examples in the food industry, see Clunies-Ross, T. and Hildyard, N., The Politics of Industrial Agriculture, Earthscan, London, 1992, p. 76. See also: "Focus on Europe", The Grocer, 9 June, 1990, p.34.

20 These are Electrolux, Daimler-Benz, Bosch-Siemens, Whirlpool and General Electric-GEC. See Baxter, A., "White goods war washes over Europe", The Financial Times, 24 June, 1992; "What us compete?", The Economist, (Business in Europe Survey), 8 June, 1991, p.17.

21 The Economist, op. cit. 11, p.5

22 David, K. A., Europe 92: Reflections from the Underside, The Challenge to Community Organizing, World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1992, p.30.

23 Lang, T. and Hines, C., op. cit. 18, p.27.

24 "Chasing cheap labour", The Economist, 25 January, 1992, p.80.

25 David, K. A., op. cit. 22, p.17.

26 Buchan, D., "French promise to make Hoover pay dear", The Financial Times, 4 February, 1993.

27 David, K. A., op. cit. 22, p. 17.

28 "The Community's two unions", The Economist, 14 September, 1991, p.16.

29 Goldsmith, J., "Maastricht: Ses Effets Sur l'Europe", Counter Culture, Vol. 5, 1992, pp.54-55.

30 L'Union Europ_enne: Les Trait_s de Rome et de Maastricht, Textes Compar_s, La Documentation Fran_aise, Paris, 1992, p.95 (hereafter: The Maastricht Treaty). English translations of the text are taken from "The Maastricht Treaty: What it says and What it means", The Independent on Sunday (Special Supplement), December 1992.

31 CEPA, "EC-funded Destruction in Spain", The Ecologist, Vol. 22, No. 3, 1992.

32 The Maastricht Treaty, op. cit. 30, p.94.

33 Ibid., p.87.

34 Weber, F., "Impact of the Social Charter", Europe 1992: The Challenge to Urban Organizing, Dublin, 1991, pp.34 and 37.

35 "Because it works", The Economist, (The European Community: Survey), 11 July, 1992, p.11.

36 In a telling comment on such breaches of EEC Directives, The Economist remarks, "[A single market] requires a centralised authority to enforce the common rules that make them possible." See "Neutral against whom?", The Economist (The European Community: Survey), 11 July, 1992, p.20. See also "Laws unto themselves", The Economist, 22 June, 1991, p.84.

37Quoted in Corporate Location Europe, February 1991.

38 The Maastricht Treaty, op. cit. 30, Article 109f.4, p.75.

39 Ibid., (Protocol: On the Statutes of the European Monetary Institute, Article 15.4), p.206.

40 Ibid., (Protocol, Article 3.2), p.200. The same legal requirements are made of the ESCB (Article 105), p. 66.

41 "Malaise over Maastricht", The Economist, 6 June, 1992, p.91.

42 The Maastricht Treaty, op. cit. 30, (Article 109 A), p.70.

43 Ibid., (Protocol: On the Statutes of the European Monetary Institute, Article 20), p.208.

44 Ibid., (Article 107), p.68.

45 Ibid., (Article 104C and Protocol on The Excessive Deficit Procedure), pp. 63 and 210.

46 Ibid., (Article 104C:11), p.65.

47 Ibid., (Article 157), p.114.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid., (Article 146), p.110.

50 Members of the Council of Europe may or may not be elected, depending on the arrangements within member states.

51 Ibid., (Article 189B), p.127.

52 Ibid., (Preamble: Article 2), p.5.

53 Sexton, S., The Maastricht Treaty in Plain English, The Education Unit, IPSET, Warlingham, 1992, p.4.

54 Greenpeace International, "Subsidiarity" won't save Maastricht or the Environment, Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, 1992, p.5.