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Schirdewan to Merkel: "Austerity almost destroyed the EU - I hope you have learned from those mistakes"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel set out the priorities of the German Presidency of the EU Council today in the European Parliament.

Reacting to Merkel’s speech, GUE/NGL co-President Martin Schirdewan said her presidency would be judged by how it manages the economic and social fallout from COVID19.

Schirdewan said people were tired of member states arguing over the recovery plan and called for more effort to be focused on protecting healthcare & essential workers who kept society going during the corona crisis.

Other key issues for the Left that Schirdewan raised in the chamber were the problem of lobby transparency in Brussels and the importance of ambitious climate action.

The full speech is below (click here to watch) :

“Madam Chancellor, this EU presidency for Germany is your second chance.

Europe still remembers the German response to the financial and economic crisis: austerity.

Southern Europe, in particular, paid a heavy price for the crisis: with massive youth unemployment, privatisation, reduced public services, lower wages and pensions.

Austerity almost destroyed the EU. I hope you have learned from those mistakes.

Instead of austerity, Europe now needs solidarity.

Chancellor, you will be judged on how you manage the economic and social fallout from this pandemic.

However, did anyone notice how there was very little mention of all those who kept society going for months? All those who work in the most critical sectors but also with the highest job precarity: medical staff, teachers, supermarket staff or those working in petrol stations or bakeries.

Our task is to protect these workers from their precarious jobs and from falling into poverty.

The citizens of Europe are tired of member states arguing. We need clarity about the recovery fund and the EU budget before the summer.

Meanwhile, I keep hearing – even today in this Parliament – the Commission President and her party allies demanding that the allocation of the recovery fund should be tied to reforms: cuts and privatisations.

It makes you wonder if the conservatives have watched any news programmes at all lately.

Let me give you a piece of advice, Chancellor Merkel: the German finance minister Olaf Scholz has blocked the digital tax in the EU Council and instead referred it to the OECD. This excuse is no longer valid after the Trump administration withdrew from the international negotiations.

Germany must stop blocking critical projects in the EU Council!

In addition to the digital tax, the so-called country-by-country reporting would also be important in putting a stop to big companies’ tax dodging practices.

A social and ecological transition is also vital for the future of Europe.

This requires a climate protection policy that adheres to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The EU Green Deal, however, that you and Ursula von der Leyen have presented here today, is miles off the Paris targets.

If the Chancellor genuinely cares about protecting our climate, then why are you sticking to trade agreements like Mercosur? You know as well as I do that right-wing extremist Brazilian President Bolsonaro is responsible for cutting down the Amazon forest! Furthermore, I think that democracies should not conclude trade agreements with right-wing extremists. Do so-called European values no longer apply when it comes to business?

On the situation at the EU’s external borders, these ‘values’ are definitely left at the bottom of the Mediterranean – just like every person who drowns there. We cannot save lives by doing dirty deals with autocrats or warlords, but rather, with a European migration policy based on human rights and solidarity. Say that to your Interior Minister Seehofer!

However, you can increase trust in our European democracy by reducing lobbyists’ influence on the EU Council and by publishing the minutes of meetings. That would be a good first step. Much more would need to be done in order to help member states living side-by-side through this Covid-19 crisis – with the ultimate the goal of a socially just, ecological and democratic European Union.”

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