Perspective: Markets Play Vital Role in Social Change; Senior Politicians from across Europe Will Gather in Birmingham on Saturday to Discuss the Future of the European Union. They Include Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, a Member of the European Convention. Here, She Argues That Europe Needs Less Bureaucracy and More Free Trade
Byline: Gisela Stuart
The Convention on the Future of Europe started work in February and by the middle of next year the parliamentary and governmental representatives from 28 countries hope to produce a draft new Treaty for the European Union.
The major political families are meeting over the next few months to prepare their input to the convention. I am delighted that this weekend they will be coming to the ICC and I am proud to be able to show off Birmingham.
In many respects the issues we will be discussing are above party politics. Economically and politically, the next few years are more dangerous than they have been in the past decade. Stock markets are collapsing and the American economy, which in the last decade has kept the rest of the world afloat, faces some serious difficulties.
Britain is probably in as good a state as any economy in the world to deal with problems, but Germany and France are experiencing recession and high unemployment.
A number of countries are also facing severe political difficulties because the traditional parties have lost the electorate's confidence and are being challenged by political extremists.
In Britain the electoral system enables us to change governments decisively. In many European countries, an elite keeps reappearing without there being real change, quite contrary to the electorate's expectations.
Too often, unpopular decisions are simply delayed for implementation in the hope that a sense of inevitability ensures compliance. It is this kind of political inertia-selling that the citizens find irritating and deeply unsatisfactory in the long run.
Some politicians feel that what is needed is more 'Europe'. I find it difficult to see where extra powers given to European institutions would resolve the current malaise. The real problem is how the existing powers are being used. In some ways the answer lies at home.
In the US there is a phrase 'all politics are local'; in the European Union all politics are national. As European Socialists gather in Birmingham I urge them to pay attention to the role of markets. Markets are not only a way of improving economic efficiency and the allocation of resources but they also have a social function; they are an alternative to revolution.
Markets allow outsiders to get on the inside. Those most opposed to making markets work more efficiently are usually those who are entrenched in power: multinational companies and the employed, not the small entrepreneur and the unemployed. …