Democracy and social security in Europe as an alternative to further cuts in social expenditure through a pact for competition.
There is no end in sight for Europe’s crisis. Throughout the continent, people are experiencing a lost decade and the situation is worsening. Every month, 200,000 jobs are lost, raising unemployment numbers to record heights. Twenty-six million Europeans are now out of work, ten million more than when the crisis began. Many who have kept their jobs have seen their wages reduced dramatically making basic costs of living a struggle to afford. In Greece, there are not enough soup kitchens to feed the hungry and in Spain, evictions are emptying buildings too expensive to be occupied. Both countries have youth unemployment rates bordering on 60%—the impact of this crisis is being felt most by those who had no hand in its creation.
The crisis was made by those who championed neoliberal policies which put trust in unregulated financial industries and engendered a competition between states. These policies have proved disastrous: the continued distribution of wealth from the bottom to the top has led to a lopsided society where the rich have been made richer and the poor have been made poorer and greater in number than ever before. The government response to the crisis has made the situations worse for those already effected. Austerity measures have led to spending cuts to public services such as health care, low income subsidies, public transport, support for the elderly and child care. These services were essential in fostering the economic autonomy of women who, now faced with a society greatly reduced, are threatened by a potentially permanent regression in strides made towards gender equality.
The austerity measures have been enacted by a European Union listening to neoliberal governments, think-tanks, the European Central Bank and the EU Commission. Along with cuts to public expenditure, an increase in privatization and across the board wage freezes have weakened employee and union rights. Mass lay-offs and closures have created a climate of fear where the fight for a secure income has become a fight for survival. This battle is being played out between employees, pensioners and the socially disadvantaged at home and transnationally. Rather than raising money by taxing immense corporate profits and those with higher wages, governments are refusing to spend money on those most in need, further widening the gap between rich and poor.
Despite this growing gulf, austerity is being intensified with plans for obligatory implementation of the measures for all EU nations. Member states have already been made to commit to a drastic reduction in public spending. Legally binding treaties have made it possible for the EU Commission to issue sanctions against countries with “structural budget deficits” who do not adjust their national economic policies to meet the Commission’s expectations. These extreme policies were ratified without democratic consent. Required stages of legislation were bypassed and the European Parliament was stripped of its decision making power.
Furthermore, states have been made to commit to binding “Treaties on Competitiveness”. Insisted upon by those influenced by neoliberal ideals such as Angela Merkel and members of the EU Commission, these treaties will force deeper cuts to wages and pensions while increasing working hours and privatizing education, resource management and health care. This legislation requires countries with or without a budget deficit to comply. Resistance to reform will be reacted against with damaging fines while national parliaments who radically alter their current structure will be rewarded with financial subsidies. structural reform across the continent appears to be inevitable.
We are voicing our refusal of the EU’s Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness. Austerity has failed and the implementation of its measures must cease.
We must turn to a democratic, social and ecological Europe that will serve its people. This requires:
A European re-distribution of wealth through fair income and higher taxation of wealth and profits
An end to wage decreases and discrepancies between member states within the monetary union through current account surpluses that harm other member states
Strengthening employee and union rights
Stronger regulation of financial markets
Democratization of the European fiscal policy
The creation of treaties to reduce unemployment in every member state
A European investment programme to extend infrastructure and ecological modification
A European social union
Intensifying political interaction through the European Union can only be done by demanding a stronger emphasis on democracy and a dedicated care for the well-being of all Europeans.