Manon Aubry: “We must overcome the blockages posed by certain European rules”

Some European provisions are opposed to the implementation of “an ecological and social programme of rupture”, explains the La France Insoumise MEP and co-chair of The Left in the European Parliament in an article in “Le Monde”, specifying that “disobeying” these rules does not mean contributing to the desintegration of the EU.

The political history of France is sometimes written in a few days. The creation of the New Social and Ecological People’s Union (Nupes) has just demonstrated this.

In 1936, the forces of the left were able to unite under the banner of the Popular Front, in the face of the right, which was sweeping away the expectations of the people, and the extreme right, which was threatening democracy. Eightysix years later, La France insoumise, the Greens, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party have taken up our responsibilities to build an ambitious common programme for the transformation of society and to revive immense hope in our country.

Far from the theory of a fractured and irreconcilable left, which is only put forward by people who do not belong to it or no longer do, our union responds to the expectations of voters: retirement at 60, a minimum wage of 1,400 euros, a freeze on the prices of basic necessities, ecological planning, and a guarantee of autonomy for young people are at the heart of the government programme. On 12 and 19 June, the election of a Nupes majority will immediately improve the lives of millions of people.

At the heart of the discussions with our partners is the European question, which has permanently fractured the left since the 2005 referendum. Different approaches existed and will continue to exist. Nevertheless, once we got past the differences in vocabulary and the misunderstandings about our respective positions, we showed that it was now possible to agree. Not by making the European Union a totem, but by projecting ourselves into the concrete exercise of power.

Many people have long shared our analysis that current EU rules prevent the implementation of an ambitious ecological and social agenda. Competition law blocks any renationalisation of Électricité de France (EDF), prevents the rebuilding of an ambitious freight business and prohibits the promotion of local agriculture and economy (such as organic and local canteens) in public tenders. European budgetary rules hinder the financing of the ecological transition and public services.

Some provisions of the current Common Agricultural Policy complicate our ability to move towards a peasant agroecological model. Our discussions during the negotiations over the last few days and nights have confirmed that the whole of the people’s bloc can agree on this observation. From then on, and in spite of sometimes heated exchanges, I always knew that we would come up with a common response and a clear strategy: that of not respecting these European rules which are opposed to the implementation of an ecological and social programme of rupture.

Whether we call it disobedience or objection, the idea remains the same: that of overcoming the obstacles posed by certain European rules to the application of our measures. Disobedience is therefore not an objective in itself, but a means of not giving up on our ambition and respecting the mandate given to us by the French. It is neither close nor far from the door to an exit from the European Union or the Euro. And those who imply it know it perfectly well. Their objective is different: to sow doubt in order to discredit this new popular union that worries them so much. This is the only weapon of the defenders of the neoliberal status quo, who fear, and rightly so, that our strategy will finally change the game in Europe. For if we disobey, we will take other states with us.

As recent history teaches us, this strategy is a key element of power relations. It was by refusing to put its drinking water production in competition that Germany obtained this exemption for the entire EU. It was because several states banned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that the EU ended up legalising these bans. Finally, it was recently because Spain took action on energy prices in the face of their explosion that mechanisms are being created to regulate them throughout Europe.

Stop the race to the bottom

It is worth noting that liberals do not hesitate to disobey when protective rules thwart their desire to deregulate everything. Emmanuel Macron, who presents himself as the leader of the "pro-Europeans", does not respect European air quality standards, nor those on data protection, nor the targets for renewables. Who will dare to say that he is looking for a Frexit? It is time to end the race to the bottom and to defend instead a logic of non-regression: no European standard should apply if it is less ambitious than a national rule in terms of human, social and ecological rights.

This approach is in direct opposition to the authoritarian and reactionary drift in Poland and Hungary. The far right in power in these countries is only interested in attacking abortion rights, the freedoms of LGBTI people, the independence of judges and the press. Mateusz Morawiecki and Viktor Orbán are not disobeying the European neoliberal straitjacket but the principles of the rule of law, and they are attacking all democratic safeguards. We are fighting this and will always fight it.

The French no vote in the 2005 referendum opened a period of division on the left, with some refusing to see that it was a rejection of extreme liberalism, not a rejection of internationalism and the very principle of European construction. The agreement that has just been reached on this issue within Nupes opens a new page. Seventeen years after the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty, it is not a question of sweeping our differences under the carpet, but of underlining our convergences in the face of the urgencies, and of demonstrating that it is possible to break with the liberal and productivist course of the European Union.

We are betting on the determination and collective mobilisation of the people to take our destiny in hand. For, as Saint Just (1767-1794) said, "happiness is a new idea in Europe". We are now finally giving ourselves the means to achieve it.

Originally published in Le Monde (French, 7/5/2022)