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Nice and the corporate agenda: The changes to article 133

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Wednesday October 16, 2002 11:04author by Libertarians against Nice Report this post to the editors

One notable feature of this Nice referendum is that for the first time corporations are openly involved in calling for a Yes vote. There has been almost no discussion of why these bodies are taking such a prominent position by the media

Press Release - Oct/16/2002
Libertarians against Nice

Nice and the corporate agenda: The changes to article 133

---

Nice and the corporate agenda: The changes to article 133

One notable feature of this Nice referendum is that for the first time corporations are openly involved in calling for a Yes vote. The short walk in Dublin city from Grafton Street to O' Connell street reveals posters from IBEC, IFSC and the Construction Industry Federation. The Small Firms Association also came out for a yes vote. There has been almost no discussion of why these bodies are taking such a prominent position by the media, instead we are to believe that they are concerned for the workers of Eastern Europe.

The reasons are found in the changes made by the Nice treaty to Article 133 of the Treaty of the European Union. Despite the efforts of many Anti Nice campaigners to get discussion of these changes into the Nice debate the media has refused to cover them, perhaps the fact that much of the media is also corporate owned is not irrelevant here. The referendum commission has also failed to inform Irish voters of this issue despite a picket on their offices by NGO's. So what is being hidden?

The World Trade Organisation admitted the importance to it of the changes to Article 133 in it's June 2002 'Trade Policy Review of the European Union' in writing "Of particular significance to the WTO is the exclusive Community competence that would apply to negotiations of agreements that concern services (with certain exceptions), and the commercial aspects of intellectual property rights upon ratification by all Member States of the Treaty of Nice."[i]

The changes to Article 133 will mean that the EU Council and Commission will be responsible for the negotiation of trade deals rather then the national governments of the EU. Why would the WTO be keen on this? Perhaps one clue is found in the Seattle talks where "without consulting and over the objections of civil society and EU member states, the European Commission announced its support for a Biotechnology Working Party, causing 15 EU trade ministers to issue a joint statement of disagreement"[ii].

The new paragraph 5 confirms the suspicion that the WTO is one of the "international organisations" that the EU commission will be able to make agreements with as it makes it explicit that these provisions "shall also apply to the negotiation and conclusion of agreements in the fields of trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property". These lay at the heart of the Seattle round of WTO talks. Services in this context includes essential public utilities such as water delivery and electricity generation and supply, in fact over 160 services have been named by the WTO. Services also include postal services, finance and banking, and telecommunications services. The WTO agenda is to force privatisation of such sectors in particular by prohibiting public funding or subsidies for them. And there is big money to be made by the corporations here. In 2000 it was estimated that "Global expenditures on water services now exceed $1 trillion every year"[iii].

The Intellectual Property referred to in Article 133 is not just the copyright of books and records. It is also the patents owned by the super profitable drug corporations. The WTO grants them a global 20-year monopoly over the drugs, which they develop, and provides for trade sanctions against any country which doesn't protect this monopoly. Just before the last Nice referendum they attempted to use their 'Intellectual Property rights' to stop the import of cheap anti AIDS drugs into Africa. They backed down, for the moment, and in that case alone, due to the public outcry and the fact that the documents they would have had to produce in court would have revealed the scale of their profits to an already hostile public.

The attempt by the drug companies to do this was deeply unpopular in Ireland. But 'qualified majority' would have allowed the Irish government to publicly oppose the drug company agenda only to be outvoted at the EU council and then be part of implementing sanctions against these countries. In recent years the government has become increasingly adept at the tactic of saying one thing to NGO's or for public consumption before implementing quite contradictory policies. The Intellectual Property provisions might also mean in the future that medical companies would win the 'right' to buy patient related databases off hospitals.

Andrew Flood of Libertarians Against Nice said
"There is a corporate agenda of privatisation buried in the Nice treaty in the changes to Article 133. This is why corporations based in Ireland are arguing so hard for the treaty - they recognise that it promises them super profits. Ordinary Irish workers should beware when they see organisations like IBEC, the IFSC, the Small Firms Association and the Construction Industry Federation spending a lot of money in arguing for a Yes vote. We should look at what these same organisations have to say on issues like the minimum wage and compulsory redundancy payments. The Nice treaty is about creating a bosses Europe, we should therefor reject it".


--- ends --

More information on Nice and the Corporate Agenda at
http://struggle.ws/ireland/nice/analysis/corporate.html

Libertarians against Nice
http://more.at/stopnice

i WTO Secretariat, June 2002 'Trade Policy Review of the European Union', online at http://europa.eu.int/comm/trade/wto_overview/index_en.htm
ii NGO STATEMENT ON WTO CRISIS IN SEATTLE:A CALL FOR CHANGE, 2 DECEMBER 1999, a copy is online at http://lists.essential.org/random-bits/msg00207.html
iii http://www.canadians.org/campaigns/campaigns-tradepub-gats_primer.html

Related Link: http://more.at/stopnice
author by vert-et-noirpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 11:33Report this post to the editors

I read a very interesting article/analysis in this (wed) mornings Irish Times. Although we may be right to be worried about the effects of article 133, it is irrelevant to this debate as it's not even in the nice treaty....

I don't nave access to the online IT so maybe someone who does could post a copy of this unbiased (reality based?) analysis.

author by dataflowpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 12:02Report this post to the editors

The treaty is smiley happy poor people looking to get into Europe.

The treaty is little girls worried about their future.

The treaty is loadsamoney for all of us.

The treaty is the peace process and Nelson Mandela and the nobel prize and all the good things in the world.

Boring dingbats who actually read that long and far too complex to worry about document that is masquerading as the Nice treaty are doing a service to no-one - just confusing peoplle mentioning articles and institutions and democracy and all.

Trust me - I'm a politician.

author by some biased hack - Irish Timespublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 12:06Report this post to the editors

Analysis: Patrick Smyth examines the latest target of the No campaigners -
Article 133 of the Nice Treaty.
After militarisation, neutrality, the loss of a commissioner and the
national veto .... now Article 133, the last, and, some say, definitely not
least of the reasons to vote No to Nice.
Or is it?
Article 133 has been dragged from what many believe is deserved obscurity to
the front of the stage for one of two very different reasons.
Either it is a crucial weapon in the armoury of liberalisers, privatisers,
and globalisers and deserves to be exposed as such. Or it is a spurious
means, cynically or misguidedly, to drag such emotive issues as
globalisation and privatisation into a campaign about entirely other
matters.
The provision, agreed after a long, hard fight at Nice, represents an
attempt to extend the EU's remit from the negotiation of international trade
agreements about traditional industrial or agricultural matters to the new
areas of services and intellectual property.
Ahead of talks in the World Trade Organisation, the Commission will now get
a mandate from the Council of Ministers which will also approve or reject
any outcome.
Voting will be by qualified majority.
Supporters of the provision argued that it was anomalous to make decisions
on such trade deals by unanimity when the areas they touched on were already
the subject of majority voting within the framework of the internal market.
Bowing to French concerns the member-states did exempt some areas from the
provision - health and education services, and cultural and audiovisual
services.
What has caused some confusion among campaigners is a reference in the
amended article to "the achievement of uniformity in measures of
liberalisation" and which is being seen by some as an injunction to the
Commission to pursue liberalisation across the board.
But, in fact, the words are drawn from the Treaty of Rome and just mean that
the Commission can not negotiate an external trade deal that will impact
differently on different member-states.
Far from being a liberaliser's charter, it is a defensive mechanism.
The truth is that measures to introduce competition into areas dominated in
the past by state monopolies, from telecoms to electricity, have been a
feature of the EU scene long before the Nice Treaty was dreamed of.
They will continue to feature whether or not the treaty is passed because
they are in tune with the economic philosophy of the member-states.
The general president of SIPTU, Mr Des Geraghty, argues that the
privatisation "scare" is completely misguided.
"Most privatisation has been driven by national governments failing to put
adequate resources into utilities, and then hiding behind the EU," he says.
Although EU competition rules have been used as an excuse to drive
privatisation of state assets, "there is no legislative provision at EU
level that prevents any kind of ownership," he says, whether state or
private.
"The real battle on this issue is in national states, not at EU level."
No campaigners do have a point, however, when they point to the fact that
such trade deals are exempted from a requirement for approval by the
European Parliament - indeed they are the only significant area of policy
where the ending of national vetoes has not been accompanied by an expanded
role for the European Parliament.
But such concerns are overstated, the veteran Danish Eurosceptic, Mr Jens
Peter Bonde MEP argues.
He says that if trade deals are not put to parliament, MEPs will simply
block other business - they have no intention of being constrained by the
treaty.
Any more, it could be argued, than No campaigners are constrained by what's
actually in the treaty.
Once able to show even a marginal reference in the treaty to a policy area,
a broadside against a whole swathe of policies appears to be justified.
Thus, a treaty reference to a minor change in decision-making in the
security field becomes the occasion for diatribes against EU
"militarisation".
And an incremental change in trade negotiating procedures becomes an
occasion for indicting the WTO, international capitalism, and globalisation.
Easy targets. And perhaps deserving of being targeted. But the Nice Treaty
they ain't.

Related Link: http://www.gatswatch.org
author by Andrewpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 12:15Report this post to the editors

There is a little confusion about this. Article 133 is not in the Nice treaty, it is in the treaty of Europe. BUT Nice does modify article 133 in the ways detailed at the article above. Don't take my word for it, check out the Nice Treaty on the Irish gov web page at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/Treaty.pdf

Related Link: http://more.at/stopnice
author by Andrewpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 15:04Report this post to the editors

Just got the Irish Times and read the article and the article that it is intended as a reply to (Green Party conf.). It's pretty odd to say the least but suggest that the pressure on this point must be making some impact. Apperantly some politican was complaining that there were a lot of questions on the issue on the 'doorsteps' in central Dublin.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 16:08Report this post to the editors

Note that the quoted IT article admits that there is a "democratic deficit" introduced by the elimination of consensus and then weakly suggests that we can rely upon MEPs to block other business unless they are allowed to vote on issues that come before the EC!

The Libertarians Against Nice have done a great job in raising Article 133 to the dismay of those who would rather live in a la-la-land in which there's progresh and inveshtment and subshidies to be gained from turning over one's democratic control to someone else.

Perhaps LAN could try to get one of it's latest pieces (like the one above) published? It'd be good to redress the distorted picture being presented internationally. (Possibly now is not the time with so much to be done, but it would be useful and it looks as though mainstream journos are too embedded in the notions of supine Irish dependence on EU masters).

Ireland can do the rest of Europe a favour by insisting that the European Union is governed by its citizens and not a claque of non-elected bureuacrats beholden to the business interests that will reward them with directorships after they've served their term.

The fact that we're the only country to have had a direct democratic vote on this and have rejected it already, that our government is spending money pushing one partisan viewpoint instead of facilitating debate ought to send shivers down the spine of any European that believes in democracy.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 16:11Report this post to the editors

what I mean is ... could someone from LAN phone the editor of the IT and request, in the interests of balance, that the piece be carried as a guest editorial? There has been little representation of this viewpoint and a personal argument addressed directly to the editor may work a little better than a press release?

author by Andrewpublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 16:39Report this post to the editors

Hi, someone from the Art 133 committee has written a 1,000 word article for the IT that they have said they will publish tomorrow

author by in the heat of debatepublication date Wed Oct 16, 2002 20:42Report this post to the editors

HEADLINE:
Article 133: The elephant in the living room of the Nice Treaty Debate.

SUBHEADLINE:
Nice advances the power of international companies over the democratic will of European citizens, writes Eamonn Crudden of the Article 133 Information Group.

BODYTEXT:
one thing is clear; acceptance of the Treaty of Nice will severely limit the right of elected representatives to regulate vital public services. The Treaty proposes changes to the EU’s Common Commercial Policy (defined under Article 133 of the Treaties of the European Union) which will alter our system of democratic accountability. It will remove the governments right to veto international trade deals to do with services privatisation. Also, it will remove the right of the European Parliament to be consulted.

Patrick Smyth in yesterday’s Irish Times comments that “measures to introduce competition into areas dominated in the past by state monopolies’ are an inevitability ‘because they are in tune with the economic philosophy of the member states’. This is ideology masquerading as realism. Democratic control over whether or not a country or the EU decides to privatise public services must be maintained. Else what is our vote for?

The General Agreement on Trade in Services is currently being negotiated through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), its contents are secret and once signed it is irreversible. Any issues relating to interpretation will only be finally resolved at the WTO court, known as the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. It will be out of the hands of European courts.

The European Commission originally argued for its right of “sole competence” over the services industry, i.e. to exclude the Parliament and remove the veto from Member States, as far back as 1990. EU governments rejected these demands. The European Court of Justice (in Opinion 1/94) subsequently reaffirmed the Member States right of veto and the Parliament’s right to be consulted on the text of GATS. This system of checks and balances was written into the Amsterdam Treaty.

The current legal position in the EU is that if we (the EU) are to sign a final version of the GATS it must be brought out into the open, we must be allowed to see it and the European Parliament must be allowed to have a consultation on the full text of the agreement. After this parliamentary consultation, the European Council of Ministers must unanimously agree to accept the contents of the GATS agreement.

GATS documents relating to the EU’s promises to privatise and remove government regulation were leaked from the Commission and published in the Guardian last March. These documents clearly showed that the Commission intends to ask all WTO member states to open up the water sector (including water collection, purification, distribution and wastewater treatment) for international competition and to remove and reduce government regulation over large parts of the energy sector and various other sectors, including postal services, retail, tourism and transport.

Mary Harney recently, relying on 1.3 (b) of GATS, attempted to calm fears about 133 and services privatisation. However, European Court of Justice rulings are often used to settle WTO disputes and in May 1999 the Commission told the WTO, “These provisions (of Article 55 of the EU) are similar to those of Article 1.3(b) of GATS which excludes from its scope services ‘supplied in the exercise of governmental authority’. There are no examples in the European Court of Justice jurisprudence where the Court found that an activity would fall under the scope of Article 55.” For example, the EC challenged Italy's monopoly on jobcentres. Even though this was a public monopoly with no private sector competition, and even though Italy maintained the monopoly was a matter of public policy, the European Court of Justice agreed in 1997 with the EU and ruled Italy's program was a violation because it was “liable to affect trade.” So much for Harney’s ‘government authority’ argument.

Patrick Smyth mentions Des Geraghty arguing that privatisation is driven by National Governments – this is a ridiculous assertion at a time when the UK is being pressurised in bilateral GATS negotiations to guarantee never to renationalise the UK railways and to open up their Health and Education Services to further liberalisation. France was pressurised at the Spring Summit of EU leaders in Barcelona this year into agreeing to the liberalisation of their energy market. This has led to a wave of strikes in France in recent weeks. The political agenda being formulated at the Spring Summits in Lisbon, Stockholm and Barcelona is aimed at making the EU the most ‘competitive’ trading bloc in the world through, among other measures, making workforces more flexible. What this means is seeking to the power of Unions throughout Europe and moving workforces from the Public Sector to the Private Sector. Ireland is the Worlds most globalised economy and one where the government and unions should be holding on to any control they have on the economy and on services. Instead they are helping undermine democracy in the EU.

They have failed to tell us that under Nice we will not get to see to see what services we’re promising to privatise and what services we’re promising to remove government regulation of, until after the GATS is signed (in secret by the Council). The legal framework of GATS currently includes some 169 areas and subsectors of the service industry, sectors as diverse as: “education, water, passenger transport; taxation, urban planning; midwives and nurses; agriculture and forestry; all insurance and insurance-related services, consumer credit and entertainment services.”

The new Article 133 was not suggested by the European public and was opposed in the European Parliament. It is part of the process of ‘corporate-globalisation’, which means a reduction in democracy for the sake of the profits of large international companies. For Irish democracy, for a democratic Europe, for of our fellow Europeans in the candidate countries, we must maintain the status quo and vote No.

Eamonn Crudden is a Filmaker and a member of the Article 133 Information Group

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Thu Oct 17, 2002 05:37Report this post to the editors

a very clear summary of one of the major problems with this horrid Treaty. Now that that's been clearly explained the question remains: are our political "representatives' stupid or duplicitous? They've told us there's no Plan B: it's a lie.
They've told us that there's no Article 133: it's a lie.
They've told us that we have to vote until we give them a "yes": it's a lie.

I vote for them being corruptly stupid.

author by Raypublication date Thu Oct 17, 2002 10:06Report this post to the editors

Did the Article 133 article go in uncut?

author by Eamonn Cruddenpublication date Thu Oct 17, 2002 10:56Report this post to the editors

-It was meant to be 'Article 133 - The elephant in the living room of the Nice Treaty Debate'

Oh well

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