Athens hosts EU meeting on workers’ rights

ATHENS, Greece – Members of the European Parliament (EP), labor lawyers, trade union and peace leaders gathered here Dec. 8 and warned of a continent-wide assault on democratic rights unleashed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in the United States. People’s Weekly World Editor Tim Wheeler also attended as a guest.

Titled “Civil Liberties and Social Rights: The Policy of the European Union,” the meeting was attended by delegates from Germany, Belgium and France, as well as leaders of many democratic and peace organizations within Greece.

Stratis Korakas, one of three Greek Communist Party members in the EP, opened the day-long meeting.

“There is no doubt that the abhorrent events of Sept. 11 have been used as a pretext to accelerate the implementation of political decisions made long ago,” he said. “What we are seeing today is that the EU has been turned into an industry producing legislation that strips away our democratic liberties.”

It includes, he said, legislation defining terrorism so broadly that striking workers could be arrested as “terrorists.”

A Europe-wide system of intelligence and dossiers on individuals and groups has been established to track immigrant workers. The newest initiative is creating a European prosecutor with the power to overrule the authorities of any member nation.

“The ‘Framework Decision’ on the European arrest warrant, which is of doubtful legality, constitutes a blow to the sovereign rights of member states and runs counter to ... the Greek Constitution,” he said.

A new EU law enforcement agency called “Eurojust,” based in Brussels, will have enforcement powers anywhere in the European Union.

“They will have broad, uncontrolled powers for interrogation and prosecution,” Korakas said. “The law enforcement authorities in any EU country can be ordered to begin an investigation or to prosecute … The member states must comply. The justification was to ‘combat cross-border crime’ and, of course, among the crimes is ‘terrorism.’”

Greek cotton farmers, outraged at the ruinous prices imposed by the EU, have been blocking traffic throughout Greece with their tractors. “They are in danger of being called ‘terrorists’ and punished with imprisonment of 15 or more years,” he said.

Korakas denounced the Bush administration’s war on Afghanistan. “It is clear what the target of the American imperialists and their EU allies is,” he said. “They want to place this region with all its geo-strategic importance, including oil, under their control.”

A movement across Europe is needed to defend democratic rights and oppose the war policy, he said.

Wheeler said Bush and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft have engaged in brazen racial profiling in the arrest of 1,200 individuals who are being kept incommunicado even though none has been charged with terrorism.

Bush and Ashcroft, he charged, want to lift restrictions on FBI COINTELPRO spying, infiltration and “dirty tricks” exposed during the Nixon Watergate conspiracy. Bush’s Nov. 13 Military Order sets up secret military tribunals to try accused terrorists.

“Why secret?” Wheeler asked. “Wouldn’t it serve justice for the evidence to be aired publicly for all to see? Or is there evidence Bush wants to hide of the CIA’s long-standing ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qai-da?

Jan Fermon, a labor lawyer from Brussels and a member of the Belgian Workers Party, reported on a “European Appeal” in defense of democratic rights initiated by 160 lawyers to alert the public that the “collateral damage of the war on terrorism must not be our democratic rights.”

The preamble of the EU arrest warrant, he said, could cover acts of “urban violence.”

“It is a code word for police forces and security forces to unleash police violence against workers. There have been mass protests against corporate globalization, such as the demonstrations last spring in Genoa, Italy, that could be criminalized under this EU arrest warrant,” Fermon said. “We don’t want a Europe in the service of the monopolists and the multinational corporations. We must make no concessions to this repression.”