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GUE/NGL MEPs outline urgent need for alternatives to austerity

GUE/NGL MEPs hosted a discussion by academics and activists from across the continent in the European Parliament this morning on the topic, ‘EU peripheral economies: From austerity to sustainable growth’.

GUE/NGL Group President Gabi Zimmer opened the conference by saying: “The division between the centre and the periphery is growing, especially in terms of the social dimension. We need to create instruments that, instead of reinforcing the different rates and models of growth, create the means for the peripheral economies to catch up.

“To this end, we are fighting hard for an EU Social Pillar and we want the Commission to present a proposal at the summit next March that can provide a sufficient basis for the development of the EU as area where no one is left behind,” she added.

Greek MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitrios Papadimoulis also addressed the opening of the conference.

“The urgent dilemma we are facing is Europe’s failure to fulfil the promises it has made to its citizens. EU leaders have promised jobs, growth, social inclusion and economic cohesion – and they have failed to deliver on all fronts, causing deep discontent. Part of the reason why the Italian people voted ‘No’ to Renzi in last weekend’s referendum was no doubt because German Finance Minister Schäuble urged them to vote ‘Yes’.

“The actions of the Eurogroup towards Greece, and their insistence that European labour rights do not need to apply to Greek workers, demonstrates the dangerous attitude of the EU leaders. If we do not change direction from austerity to sustainable growth then the economic crisis may become a crisis of democracy similar to the one Europe experienced 80 years ago,” he explained.

Chairing the event, Irish MEP Matt Carthy said: “The failed euro policies of internal devaluation by cuts to wages, welfare and pensions, and increases in regressive taxation along with the macro-economic straitjacket of the Stability and Growth Pact are the recipe for an economic and social disaster.

“The challenge of a sustainable recovery for countries trying to implement progressive policies is huge since the social structure and economic capacities have been destroyed to a large extent by years of austerity – and we need to find ways to support such attempts,” said Carthy.

Speaking on the European Fund for Strategic Investment, German MEP Fabio De Masi said:

“The Juncker plan is 'Trumponomics'.”

“Trump also wants banks and insurers to invest in the infrastructure. But the Juncker Plan does not actually provide much additional funding. Most of the investments would have been pursued without the EU Guarantee. Now private investors can shift the risk of their investments to taxpayers. Public investment would be much cheaper since interest rates are low and revenue would go to public budgets instead of Deutsche Bank and Allianz.

“It is a lie to argue there is no alternative because we cannot change the rules of the so-called Stability and Growth Pact.

“The European Union is planning to exempt investment into the Defence Union from the Deficit Rules. Apparently, investment into the military-industrial complex is no problem. So why not invest into housing, hospitals and education instead?” argued De Masi.