A credible alternative to the EU is desperately needed

by Dieter Sprock

People may think whatever they want of the vote on the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine in the Netherlands - the result is clear: it is a vote of no confidence against the EU! Thus after their “No” to the EU constitution in 2005 the Dutch population has also used the second instance of their being allowed to vote on a proposal to express their dissatisfaction with EU policies. Just as a quick reminder: In 2005 nearly 62% of the Dutch – with a turnout of 63% – rejected the European Constitutional Treaty. In France 56% voted against the adoption of the EU Constitution at that time, so that after these successful referendums this treaty never gained legal force, and yet it was reissued as the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.
However, the voices critical of the EU are not limited to the Netherlands and France. In Great Britain a vote on the EU-exit of England is imminent, and the result of this is open. And in many European countries EU-critical parties are gaining more and more popularity. In some of those countries they even form the democratically elected government. The countries of the so-called Visegrad Group – which include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – refuse to accept the dictate of the EU with regard to its immigration policy.
So far the EU-authorities and the established parties have done nothing but attach far-fetched negative labels to the critics and promise better communication – that is more propaganda – as a solution for the EU. But, with more and more people, such sweet-sounding and enticingly upbeat public pronouncements do not have the desired effect any longer. Their hope for a better life has been disappointed.
Even the free-market “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” features headlines like “Picking tomatoes for a pittance” (15 October 2015) or “Starvation wages in Eastern Europe’s clothing stores” (3 March 2016). It reports on the miserable working and living conditions of the harvesters in Italy, who are even defrauded of their wages and harassed while working extremely hard, and that not only in individual cases.
If well-known European fashion companies have their exclusive and expensive goods produced in Bulgaria and Romania at low wages which are below the poverty line in wide areas, and if these companies exert pressure on the governments to enforce their interests, then it is not about explaining the EU more clearly to these people, but about changing the system that produces such abuses.
Across the EU the scale of minimum wages ranges from 1.06 euros to 11.12 euros. And Gyögy Dalos writes in the  “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 29 February 2016 that the “normal range” of youth unemployment is between 15% and 25%. However, in Greece it is 48.6%, in Spain 46.0% and in Croatia 44.0%.
If people are not offerered a credible alternative to the EU system soon, Europe will be facing hard times.
The Swiss Federal Council and the parliamentary majority have to think twice about whether they wish to continue letting themselves be extorted by this EU, as has happened recently, when, under pressure from the EU, they agreed to the extension of the free movement of persons to include Croatia, in order to allow Switzerland to continue its participation in EU research projects. Anyway, they cannot count on the people’s approval when prostrating themselves in that way.    •