As A former MEP I have traditionally been a European Union (EU) supporter. The many progressive directives of the EU on the environment and employment rights have been beneficial to British people.
Also, the educational, cultural and social links have helped open up Europe for all its citizens.
Above all it has produced a long period of peace and stability where differences are decided in debates in the European Parliament and decisions by the Council of Ministers.
However, I have to say my pro-EU views have been somewhat challenged in recent months by EU decisions. Firstly the negotiation in secret of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty which seems to be largely in favour of global capitalism and not citizens, and above all the appalling treatment of Greece, which not only will continue to impoverish the Greek people but also effectively takes away democratic rights from the home of democracy.
Of course Greece should never have been allowed to join the euro in the first place. I argued this with the European Central Bank in 1998 – they told me that if the “informal economy” was included then Greece met the criteria. I pointed out that those people in that sector never paid their taxes. The ECB said: “That is a problem, but we hope to change the culture.” Not much luck there!
The measures taken by the EU against Greece are not only bad for Greece they are also bad for the EU, and for one of the key principles of the EU: solidarity. In addition, the dominance of the German economy, largely because of the euro, and therefore the political influence of Germany, has begun to provoke a backlash in Greece and the rest of Europe.
Previous German leaders conscious of their recent history always took a broad view of their European responsibilities, I am afraid Angela Merkel seems to take a much narrower view, looking only after German interests.
In Greece this has brought back painful memories of German occupation – and of course the irony that Greece, among other European countries, helped to create the German economic miracle by writing off much of German debt in 1953. At a time when we are going to decide on continued UK membership of the EU these are not helpful conditions.
I still believe in the idea of sharing our sovereignty with Europe and indeed globally. However, it must be a different kind of Europe – one that protects its workers and citizens. And above all, it must be an EU that engages in solidarity and not oppressing its members.