The European Project is a Progressive Cause
February 2, 2012
Andrew Noakes, Chair of the Young European Movement London
Hostility towards European integration is often associated with conservatism, but a surprising number of progressive voters would also like to see Britain leave the European Union. A Guardian/ICM poll in October of last year revealed that 38 percent of Labour and 44 percent of Liberal Democrat voters support EU withdrawal.
Progressives who, like myself, are enthusiastic about the European project must stop taking support from the left for granted. We must make an active effort to persuade social democrats and liberals to re-invest their faith in European integration as an engine for progress in Europe and beyond.
Of course, there will always be critics on the left who see the European project as a capitalist conspiracy, committed to extinguishing our progressive aspirations. But this is an old-fashioned smear and should be exposed as such.
The EU, through the single market and schemes like Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci, has removed national barriers to social mobility, allowing millions of Europeans to benefit from job opportunities, education, and training across our continent. Meanwhile, the European Commission has fined corporations such as Microsoft and Intel billions of dollars for abusing their market dominance, and has defied the demands of the USA, China, and corporate interests to introduce an aviation tax designed to tackle climate change.
The European Union provides over half of all global humanitarian aid to the developing world, and has introduced extensive provisions to protect European workers’ rights. It has brought democracy and peace to all corners of our continent. This is no capitalist conspiracy; it is a beacon for equal opportunity, social justice, and people power.
As Europe’s economic troubles continue, people across the continent are, quite rightly, becoming increasingly suspicious of unrestrained, unregulated globalisation. States and societies around the world seem to be held hostage by international financial markets and powerful corporate interests that are beyond the control of any single nation.
The EU is a radical, pioneering answer to the unaccountability of these trans-national forces. It is an ambitious template for global governance: a key element of a wider system incorporating regional cooperation and integration, regimes like the Kyoto Protocol, and international law.
Too often, the European project is portrayed as something that takes power away from Britain. But British progressives should support it precisely because it empowers us to take control of our own future and be a force for good in the world. From financial sector reform and tackling climate change, to dealing with global poverty and international crises, participation in the European project enables Britain to harness the forces of globalisation rather than be consumed by them, and to play a leading role in the effort to build a better world society.