Unprecedented challenges require sustainable & inclusive action
Following their participation in the 2021 European Parliamentary Week, a group of left-wing MEPs and members of national parliaments have issued the following declaration that demands a new set of policies for radically transforming our post-Covid19 society.
The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our lives over the last year. The socio-economic challenges are unprecedented: The world faces a historical health crisis, which is followed by a profound social and economic crisis. In addition, climate change keeps posing an existential threat to the planet and to the future of human civilisation itself. The idea that we can just go back to “normal” is a crucial mistake. In order to recover from the crisis, we need radical transformations to develop an economic system based on social justice, social inclusion and climate sustainability. This historic task cannot be left to ‘market mechanisms’, particularly given the fact that private actors have retrenched during the crisis. Such a transformation requires a major, coordinated and sustained public investment effort.
The creation of the Recovery Fund introduces for the first time the issuance of common EU debt to finance the recovery. It is an important step but also not enough. Given the magnitude of the pandemic and its consequences, the Fund’s resources will be insufficient, while the EUCO conclusions in July 2020 led to massive cuts to the grant components, which seriously upset the balance between grants and loans and reflect the limitations of the EU in their approach to the crisis. The disbursement of the funds will be subject to regular assessments by the European Commission and national plans will have to comply with the recommendations of the European Semester. There is an imperative need to avoid mistakes of the past that led to privatisations, the destruction of the welfare state, huge levels of tax evasion and tax avoidance by the economic elites, the abolition of social and workers’ rights, greater divergence amongst member states, regions as well as greater income inequalities – thus less territorial, social and economic cohesion.
Meanwhile, the Stability and Growth Pact has been suspended. The activation of the general escape clause is a positive step, given the increased need of Member States for public spending in order to face the pandemic, and needs to be maintained for as long as it takes. In the meantime, and before the deactivation of the general escape clause, the current EU rules on public debt need to be thoroughly revised and reformed in order to avoid a new debt crisis.
We, the undersigned, who participated in the European Parliamentary Week 2021 (European Semester Conference and the Interparliamentary Conference on Stability, Economic Coordination and Governance in the European Union), call for:
- A fair, sustainable and inclusive growth model that will effectively address the pandemic crisis, the climate crisis and respond to the increased economic, social, territorial, digital and demographic challenges;
- The doubling of resources of the Recovery Fund, with a special focus on the grant component;
- An ambitious EU framework for a Green and Social Europe to recover from the crisis – encompassing a new set of economic, social and environmental policies in favour of the people, workers and the climate – is crucial for initiating serious and concrete efforts to tackle climate change and socioeconomic inequalities in the EU, which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic. The current EU economic governance framework should be revoked and replaced by a Sustainable Development and Employment Pact, with sound economy, social justice, social and regional cohesion and inclusive growth as the main priorities;
- The immediate revision of the SGP rules in order to overcome its pro-cyclical bias (as stated by the European Fiscal Board) and promote transparency, as well as implementing a ‘golden rule’ that exempts public investment related to the fight against climate change, inequality and poverty from the deficit calculation;
- Α significant European debt relief – at least regarding the debt created due to the pandemic – in order to avoid a new debt crisis. Already, more than 100 economists from 13 countries are calling for debt relief owed by the ECB (around 25% of European public debt) in order to support the recovery more effectively and return to growth faster;
- Public sustainable investments into the real economy, which will focus on the creation of decent and secure jobs with rights, increasing at the same time the standard of living and social protection of workers, ensuring that workers’ and people’s rights and standards are defended as we face the challenges posed by digitalisation and automation;
- The full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular by putting an end to the deregulation of the labour market, safeguarding workers’ rights, existing jobs and creating new and high-quality ones, tackling unemployment, in-work poverty and job precariousness, eliminating gender discrimination and the gender and age pay gap, strengthening collective bargaining and collective agreements, and ensuring the right to strike and the right to participate in companies’ decision-making process in a democratic and fair context;
- The strong supervision of the expansion of Artificial Intelligence integration, Machine Learning protocols and Big Data management, and how this triptych might interact, affect and possibly devastate labour and employment relationships in the new era of technology; not through the prism of technophobia but from the point of view of maintaining the pursuit of a fair society for all;
- A common set of minimum social rights and standards through a revised European Social Charter, bolstering upwards social and economic convergence and cohesion between people and territories and combatting social dumping, while guaranteeing that member states have an inalienable right to apply better rights and higher standards;
- Active gender equality and pro-child policies against the economic disparity and poverty created by the neoliberal austerity policies, strengthening the welfare state for the benefit of the people, through a social investment plan, an integrated anti-poverty strategy and a comprehensive social protection programme; a committed effort to fight against gender inequality and to close the gender pay gap in Europe;
- A rupture with neoliberal policies which have been damaging for the people of Europe and has contributed to the rise of far-right and xenophobic forces, which are threatening democracy, human rights and peace;
- An international summit under the United Nations’ framework with a view to defining a road map and a joint action plan to end tax havens, both in and outside the EU, tax evasion and avoidance, and also demanding real political commitment to tax the actual holders of wealth, and expressing regret in the EU’s insufficient response to tax scandals;
- Greater democratic accountability, transparency and supervision of European policies and institutions by strengthening the role of the national parliaments and the European Parliament, as well as the stronger participation of the European citizens. To this end, the Conference on the Future of Europe can prove a unique opportunity.
Members of national parliaments:
Paavo Arhinmäki (Vasemmistoliitto, Finland)
Andrej Hunko (Die Linke, Germany)
Skevi Koukouma (AKEL, Cyprus)
Alexandros Meikopoulos (Syriza, Greece)
Isabel Pires (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal)
Members of European Parliament:
Manon Aubry (France Insoumise, France)
Manuel Bompard (France Insoumise, France)
José Gusmão (Bloco de Esquerda)
Petros Kokkalis (Syriza, Greece)
Silvia Modig (Vasemmistoliitto, Finland)
Younous Omarjee (France Insoumise, France)
Dimitrios Papadimoulis (Syriza, Greece)
Martin Schirdewan (Die Linke, Germany)
Idoia Villanueva Ruiz (Podemos, Spain)
Nikolaj Villumsen (Enhedslisten, Denmark)