[Sinn Fein]

4th October 2002

`A Vote for Nice is a Vote for Privatisation' - Crowe

Speaking at the Alliance Against Nice press conference in Buswells today, Sinn Fein TD Seán Crowe described the Nice Treaty as the thin end of a wedge that could lead to widespread privatisation:

``Sinn Fein has long been concerned at the privatisation and international business agenda that has underpinned successive EU Treaties at the expense of national and individual rights. The Nice Treaty is another instalment in the process, an essential part of the European Union's neo-liberal privatisation agenda.

``Article 133 will allow the unelected EU Commission to open and conduct negotiations with international organisations like the World Trade Organisation on agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS.

``The GATS agreement deals with 140 sections in the area of services. It has direct consequences for essential public sector services including health, education, transport etc. The EU's chief negotiator for GATS, Robert Madelin, has identified the health and education sectors as `ripe for liberalisation'. As well as this, the Commission has long been in dialogue with industry about liberalising these two areas. While the Treaty states that responsibility for health and education rest with the member states the Treaty is unlikely to offer protection against privatisation for sub-sections of these vital areas of policy.

``Article 133 of the Nice Treaty also states `The common commercial policy shall be based on uniform principles', these principles to include `the achievement of uniformity in measures of liberalisation.' This will increase the EU's ability to pressurise member states into implementing sweeping privatisation measures and goes some way to explaining the motivation of the powerful big business lobbies behind Nice both in Ireland and elsewhere.

``The Nice Treaty has direct implications in these areas for the people in my constituency. For them, this Treaty isn't just some dry, technical document, it is the thin end of a wedge that could lead to privatisation of the services my constituents rely on. Decades of government mismanagement has meant that the less well-off in our society are especially dependent on the services the State provides and Article 133 puts those services under the hammer.

``The fact that the issue of Article 133 and the EU's privatisation agenda has barely raised a ripple in the debate in this state is as much a consequence of ignorance as it is of the YES campaign's policy of obfuscation. The Article 133 Committee is composed entirely of civil servants whose work is shrouded in secrecy. Is this accountability? Is this openness? Is this transparency?

``A vote for the Nice Treaty is a vote for privatisation and we know the Boston orientated coalition government views certain areas as ripe for privatisation but those members of the Labour party, and those Trade Union leaders marching through the streets of Dublin today, who are committed to public services should be seriously questioning their position in support of this Treaty. If they are truly committed to opposing privatisation, they must follow this policy to its logical conclusion and oppose the Treaty of Nice.''

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