Skip to main content

Lothar Bisky

Peace has absolute priority for us

From the speech of Lothar Bisky, chairperson of DIE LINKE and Member of Parliament, during the final reading on the Treaty of Lisbon

Mr President. Ladies and gentlemen. The Left Party is committed to a Europe of peace, of freedom, of democracy, of social and ecological security, and of solidarity.

We are the only ones in this House who are refusing to vote in favour of the Treaty of Lisbon. We are by no means alone in society and in Europe in taking a critical stance.

At European level - including in Germany - trade unionists have clearly voiced their doubts regarding the neo-liberal spirit of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Working Group on Employee Issues in the Social Democratic Party, or AfA, rejects the Treaty of Lisbon and is calling on SPD Members of the Bundestag to vote 'no' to the Treaty here in the Bundestag. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War are calling for the EU Treaty not to be ratified. Groups like Pax Christi or Attac all point out that the Treaty of Lisbon does not tally with the interests of the majority of citizens.

So those who believe that only the Left Party has its doubts is very much mistaken and should take a look at the arguments put forward by trade unionists and other initiatives and alliances.

If my colleague Mr Beck is of the opinion - not voiced here, but elsewhere - that one cannot form a coalition with a party that rejects this EU Treaty, then I will answer very emphatically: If readiness for office is measured in terms of being party to social dumping, then we would rather not be ready for office.

Yet again we are being presented with an amended treaty and not a constitution for the citizens of the European Union. The French and Dutch population rejected the draft constitution.

The former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing said of the Treaty being put before us today that it differs very little from the draft constitution. One can tell what the intention is, and one is dissatisfied.

Unfortunately, the EU treaties have by no means been simplified or made more transparent. We desperately needed more clarity - and in good time.

We want glasnost for Europe too! The Left Party parliamentary group brought a motion on precisely that issue, because the treaty as a whole is very difficult for normal people to understand. European policy is increasingly becoming a matter of interpretation for lawyers. I ask you: How are the citizens of the European Union going to be able to identify with Europe if that continues?

The EU Commission funds publicity campaigns in order, it is said, to explain Europe to the people. I say to you: So long as you continue to do politics without consulting your citizens and so long as people do not have the feeling that they are involved in building the House of Europe, then that will be money down the drain.

The way this treaty came about speaks volumes. It is a treaty of those in government, not of the citizens.

Yet again a conference of government leaders was held behind closed doors; yet again the citizens of Europe were not allowed to be involved in shaping the contractual bases of the future of the Union. They have no say in the outcome. The one thing they are allowed to do is foot the bill. We are against doing politics that way.

European politics should no longer be allowed to be politics by the élite for the élite. The citizens of Europe want to be involved in shaping their Europe. To do that they must be involved in decisions on the basic orientation of European policy.

My dear colleagues in the Coalition. The fact that you are excluding the population from the decision-making shows that you yourselves do not trust the Treaty of Lisbon;

otherwise you would have nothing to fear, would you? We in the Left Party want a referendum. We are not alone.

All of the 28 parties affiliated to the European Left Party are calling for a referendum on the foundations of the House of Europe. Let me remind you of Ireland; that is a sensible approach.

But not only the Left parties, the Berlin "Peace Co-ordination", the "More Democracy" initiative and other initiatives have also collected signatures calling for a referendum in Germany on the Treaty of Lisbon. These signatures will be handed over to the German Bundestag today.

We in the Left Party are committed internationalists, and we are pro-European.

We live and work in Europe and in Germany, and we feel responsible for the direction Europe is taking.

After the rather unsuccessful and above all undemocratic and intransparent Amsterdam and Nice conferences, a convention was called, which we welcomed. We were actively involved in shaping the draft convention, as we were the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. As you can see, dear colleagues, Europe is dear to our hearts, too. The Left Party is pro-Europe. But there are still enough reasons to vote 'no' today.

The Left Party's rejection of the current version of the Treaty of Lisbon is based purely on its content. We do not deny that some improvements have been made compared to the Treaty of Nice, for example the rights of co-decision of the European Parliament, which have been very much expanded, and the participation of national parliaments, the first steps towards more direct democracy. We do not deny that there are positive aspects.

However, the Treaty of Lisbon unfortunately above all has serious disadvantages. This Reform Treaty does not send a peace signal.

The provisions on the Common Security and Defence Policy are now above all defined by military aspects. We believe this is the wrong approach and also dangerous.

The obligation that Member States would be under to improve their military capabilities step by step, Article 42 § 3, will in reality lead to a constant build-up of arms.

But we need more disarmament for a peaceful, democratic, social and ecological development.

We believe the battle groups are as counter-productive as they are superfluous. They do not lend themselves to fighting terrorism, and global military interventions are the wrong way to maintain or establish peace.

And so we say 'yes' to self-defence, but 'no' to the EU being involved in any military operations outside the sovereign territory of the EU.

A build-up of arms sends the wrong message. We must put a stop to the mass slaughter of people we had in past centuries. We need political answers to problems in the European Union and to global problems.

We do not want any wars that are contrary to international law, but peaceful solutions to political and social conflicts. That means, we want a prohibition of wars of aggression firmly established in the Treaty, a firm commitment to the UN Charter and adherence to internationally recognised rules of international law.

Peace has absolute priority for us in the Left Party.

You can hear people say that the Left Party is not acceptable because of its peaceful foreign policy. If the opinion of other parties is based on striving for military solutions, then we are glad we are not acceptable.

If acceptability is defined by war, then we are glad to stand apart. We have no desire to be accepted by that kind of society.

By establishing a permanent, structured form of co-operation for states that are particularly demanding when it comes to the military you will create a military core Europe. Article 27b of the Treaty of Nice explicitly ruled out more co-operation between Member States regarding security and defence policy issues. We should have left it that way.

Dear colleagues, all those regulations that have an impact on people's working and living conditions are of great importance to us, because they interfere in the lives of nearly half a billion people. I have indeed noted, Mr Beck, that the social issue is an important one for you, too.

A neo-liberal European single market and a neo-liberal economic and monetary policy that mainly focus on competitiveness and price stability have done more harm than good for most of the people in Europe.

The result of that policy is insecure jobs and low wages on a massive scale. Nevertheless, no fundamental changes have been made to the Treaty of Lisbon. Although Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union defined a free market economy as the EU's goal, it was tied to competitiveness. However, Articles 119 and 120 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union revoke the goal of a free market economy by talking about an 'open market economy with free competition'. That is not only contradictory. It means everyone can now pick and choose exactly what they need. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide. The three decisions handed down by the European Court of Justice on the Viking, Laval and Rüffert cases showed where that will lead us: wage dumping, social dumping and a restricted right to strike.

We asked ourselves how the Treaty is interpreted economically, socially and politically. Our fears were confirmed by the three decisions handed down by the European Court of Justice. Ladies and gentlemen, now you tell employees what these decisions mean for them. The Left Party's fears were and are well-founded. They are entirely confirmed by the decisions handed down by the ECJ, because these decisions are clearly directed against workers' interests. That is a fateful development.

We reject such neo-liberal policies.

It goes against our conscience to support a policy that guarantees companies extra profits, but begrudges employees a minimum wage.

Our idea of Europe is not that cuts in social benefits should take the form of legislation.

Dear colleagues in the Coalition, I am sure that some of you were perhaps caught off guard by the anti-employee decisions of the ECJ. The ECJ was called on to interpret the Treaty of Nice. In order to avoid such decisions in the future, the Treaty of Lisbon must be changed, for example by adding a protocol containing a clause on social progress.

We in the Left Party want a European Union whose values support social statism, not only theoretically but also when it comes to the nitty-gritty.

Thank you for your attention.