I have been part of the negotiation team for the common platform, and it requires time and long discussions if you want to actually create a credible political platform. In terms of economic policies, our joint agreed program includes green planning, the redistribution of wealth, the eradication of poverty, new institutions, a cap on prices, a pension age of sixty, a minimum income for young people, and so on. And all our political partners agreed on that. So we demonstrated that the theory of “irreconcilable forces on the Left” is just wrong. On most topics, we were able to find a common approach, and we will know what to do if we win the election in June.
The relationship toward the European Union was one of the main debates, because the words we use and the historical vision of the EU we have are not the same. But the strategy we published in January, during the presidential campaign, made it possible to find a common path on this topic. We know that the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists, and us do not agree on the long-term future of Europe, the creation of a federal state, and so on. This won’t change after two weeks of discussion together — and that was not our objective. What matters is to be able to agree on a common strategy toward European institutions if Jean-Luc Mélenchon becomes prime minister. Then the question is not whether you are pro- or anti-European but what opportunities and difficulties we will face at the European level in implementing our program.
And we all agree now that some European rules are incompatible with our proposals and need to be “disobeyed” if we want to apply our program. I’ll take a few examples. Competition law will prevent us from nationalizing strategic sectors (electricity, transport, etc.) or having school canteens with local, organic food. Austerity rules will prevent us from funding our social and Green New Deal. Certain parts of the Common Agricultural Policy will make it more difficult to put an end to agribusiness and shift to a socially and ecologically sustainable food production system. And so on and so forth. So there are two options: we can either lie to people, and do nothing when we win, or else say that on those specific rules we won’t respect European law.
This has nothing to do with what [far-right prime minister] Viktor Orbán is doing in Hungary. He is totally okay with the EU’s neoliberal rules: his strategy is to get rid of all democratic and human rights counterpowers at the national, European, and international levels. Our disobedience will be the opposite: First, it will be limited to applying our political program. Second, it will always respect a principle of non-regression — if we disobey, it will always be for more social, human, and ecological rights, never for less. And third, the idea is not to disobey because we want to; it is to create a struggle within the EU to bring other member states with us and obtain treaty changes in the medium term.
So we want to be realistic about how the EU works and ambitious about how we can change it. Disobedience has worked in the past to secure derogations or force the European Commission and Council to open up possibilities. For instance, Germany protected its water sector from privatization, and this was extended to other member states. France decided to protect its cultural sector (through regulated book pricing), and this was later accepted by European institutions. A coalition of states obtained the possibility of banning genetically modified crops on their national territory after a ten-year battle with the EU. There was the same story recently with Spain intervening on energy prices at the beginning of the crisis, which forced the commission to present a plan allowing member states to regulate energy prices. Disobedience is also used every day for the wrong reasons by liberals, especially Macron. No one would say that Macron is pushing for a Frexit. But he does not respect European rules on air pollution, the development of renewable energies, working hours in the military, the protection of personal data, and so on.
So it’s time to end the race to the bottom at the EU level in terms of social or ecological protection. We will not implement EU rules if they are less ambitious and protective than our national regulation in terms of human, ecological, and social rights.