While Canadians generally think positively of Europe, and see it as more progressive than the United States, our perceptions could perhaps do with a bit of a reality check.
A critical view of the political institution that runs the European Union – namely the European Commission – is particularly needed.
This is the branch that promotes deregulation, privatization, and trade liberalization. This is the agenda that they are advancing for European transnational corporations through the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
And while Europe is promoted to us as a waiting market of 500 million consumers, we should also keep in mind that at least 84 million Europeans currently live in poverty. And we know that a neo-liberal agenda has never benefited the poor.
Meanwhile, the bureaucrats who run the EU are subsidized by taxpayers so that their children can go to exclusive private schools here in Brussels.
The London Daily Telegraph reports today that, “The cost of sending the children of EU civil servants and diplomats to 14 taxpayer-funded ‘European schools’ will (cost) £163 million by 2013, according to EU figures. …(This) means that in three years British taxpayers will be paying £22 million a year towards the private schooling of EU officials’ children.”
This comes at the same time, as reported elsewhere in the newspaper, that British prime minister David Cameron launches his aggressive “austerity drive to tackle the £155 billion deficit” in the UK. Part of his plan is to have volunteers replace public sector workers where possible.
One left-wing Member of the European Parliament described to us the EU as a ‘predatory monster’. That very likely is at odds with the perceptions that Canadians who would support CETA would have of it. They might also think CETA is about reducing tariffs to trade, when that is really only peripheral to the deal.
It’s time to start understanding some of the negative aspects of the EU and stop allowing the Canadian government to trade on goodwill and misperceptions to pave the way for a deal that will hurt Canadians and Europeans alike.
Brent Patterson, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Council of Canadians