The 9 fights that will define Europe in 2021
Tired of 2020? Who isn’t? To make sure this new year is a different and better one we need to tap into our collective power and shape some of the key issues affecting people and the planet. The Covid-19 crisis exposed the fragility of the capitalist system where citizens are forced to choose between health, jobs or climate justice as competing commodities. At the same time, 2020 was also the year that starkly reminded us of the power of joint action against injustices: from BLM collectives to the mutual aid groups springing up throughout Europe.
We highlighted the 9 fights that will define 2021 for us and our drive to put people and planet before profit.
PUBLIC HEALTH – Making the Covid-19 vaccine a universal good
In June 2020 The Left launched the right2cure.eu petition, a precursor to the European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Cure. The initiative aims to make anti-pandemic treatments and cures a global public good, freely accessible for everyone, everywhere. If the campaign gathers 1 million signatures within one year, the European Commission will be compelled to answer to the demands with a formal list of actions and provide a timeline for implementation.
The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the deadly result of decades of neoliberal policies and austerity measures, as the health crisis turned into a social crisis and an economic disaster. Moreover, the pandemic highlighted how big pharmaceutical industries benefit from billions of euros in public subsidies without having to forgo intellectual property rights. Most worryingly, in a moment where solidarity and cooperation are needed most, Big Pharma has been making massive profits. We cannot allow vaccines to become the private property of pharmaceutical multinationals, we need to continue our struggle to make access to treatments and healthcare a universal right.
“Allowing multinational pharmaceutical corporations to decide how much we pay for our health is a robbery of our public finances and social security. We all deserve protection from this pandemic. No one is safe until we are all safe”. Marc Botenga (PTB, Belgium)
“We have already paid for the Covid-19 vaccine and we should not be forced to do the same again. European citizens are bearing the brunt of the pandemic while contributing immensely to the functioning of our societies with their work and taxes. They contributed to the discovery of the Covid-19 vaccine, this was a collective effort, and this must be recognised above the narrow profit-driven interests of corporations”. Kateřina Konečná (KSČM, Czechia)
WORKERS RIGHTS – We don’t need heroes, we need rights
Behind the word “workers” hides the dreams, efforts, ambitions, and frustrations of women and men who dedicate themselves to the community. Sure enough, workers have been at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus. Health workers in hospitals and pharmacies, caregivers, cleaners, those who work in shops, and many others were enduring a tough situation and often putting their lives at risk. The Covid-19 pandemic also accentuated the plight of gig economy workers, the Left has a proposal for an alternative directive that calls on the EU to recognise platform workers as contracted employees.
In the hardest months of the crisis, workers have been celebrated, applauded, called heroes, but employment policies did not change. They are still following the same old flawed austerity recipe: deregulate labour markets, precarious work and wage restraint. If we want a better year, we must not strive to go back to the past, rather, we have to build a better future by putting workers and social rights at the front of our struggle. It’s time to put an end to the absurdity of in-work poverty and start developing labour policies that are truly inclusive and based on a gender-sensitive approach. It is time to eradicate any form of exploitation and guarantee fair conditions and wages for men and women across all sectors.
CLIMATE CRISIS – Placing people and Planet above profit
“Buzzwords will not save the planet. Buzzwords will not deliver social justice. Only radical action is appropriate and proportionate as an answer to this climate emergency.” Manon Aubry The Left Co-President (La France Insoumise)
Making capitalism just a bit greener will not succeed in halting climate change, it will only delay climate action further. For a just climate transition the EU must rethink the current system by improving living and working conditions, promoting local production, supporting the retraining of workers, tackling unemployment through education, and establishing programmes that focus on sustainable jobs adapted to the future. We need to drastically step up efforts to halt global warming as well as biodiversity and habitat loss by achieving a 70% decrease in CO2 emissions by 2030, carbon neutrality before 2040 and a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels.
The “Green Deal” must lead to a radical, systematic and global revolution of our modes of production, consumption and distribution, improving lives while decarbonising our societies. It must be fair, bringing everyone forward. The EU must break with the neoliberal framework and acknowledge its climate debt and responsibility to do more.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS – Our Fight Will Be Feminist, or it won’t be
Beyond the pandemic, 2020 has been a powerful year for feminist movements globally, with the passing of the bill to legalise abortion in Argentina and women taking the streets of Poland to claim their rights over their bodies. Nevertheless, the struggle needs to continue. Because of austerity measures and the privatisation of public services, more and more women are put in a situation of vulnerability when experiencing violence. This is particularly relevant for those who are oppressed or discriminated against for other reasons, migrant women, for example, or women living in poverty. This has to stop: women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive health and rights – need to be respected and protection ensured.
Women, with their struggle, not only fostered change, but they also opened up a new space of discussion about the kind of society we want to build. We need to break the normalisation of the subordination of women and smash the patriarchy underpinning our political, social and economic system, creating a new equitable and fair world for all genders.
“We express solidarity with the Polish women and people who took to the streets to fight for the right to safe and legal abortion and rejecting the brutal setback to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in Poland.
“This regression is not unrelated to the broader attacks against labour and social rights in which the EU also has a share of responsibility.” Sandra Pereira (PCP, Portugal)
“The Constitutional Court is not independent and is controlled by the Polish ruling party, and hence this total ban on abortion is an illegitimate ruling.
“In these crucial times, we stand in solidarity with all Polish women who are fighting for the right to safe and legal abortions. The right to decide over our bodies is a fundamental right in every country, and we will not be silenced.” Malin Björk (Vänsterpartiet, Sweden)
TAX JUSTICE – Make the billionaires pay
Wealth exists, what is missing is its distribution. While people were facing the hard blows of the crisis, in just two months the top 25 billionaires in the world saw their wealth increase by more than $250 billion. The EU and its member states will need to find new and fairer ways to exit from the ecological and social crises: raise corporate income tax rates, create a net wealth tax targeting wealthy individuals and the financial services industry.
Current EU legislation protects corporations that use loopholes to avoid taxes. They should pay, but they are receiving aid provided by the recovery measures. Europe loses up to €1 trillion to tax dodging every year. If the EU wants to be serious about tax justice it needs to scale up its fight against money laundering and tax dodging. It’s simpler than its sounds: it can start with a credible list of tax havens that also includes EU countries, a minimum corporate income tax rate, and serious regulation to avoid the practice of revolving doors between big firms and public institutions.
MIGRATION- End the obsession with Fortress Europe
2020 saw the lives of thousands of people and families being torn apart at Europe’s borders. In this new year we will be fighting for a new binding system regulating the distribution of asylum seekers across the EU to replace the unworkable Dublin Regulation, with priority given to the most vulnerable groups. International protection, the right to family reunification, and relocation for the most vulnerable groups must be ensured across all EU member states.
2021 should be the year we end the EU’s collaboration with militias & authoritarian regimes in so-called third countries like Libya, Sudan, Niger and Egypt. Instead, safe and legal channels to the EU should be opened, including safe harbours and an end to the criminalisation of sea rescues by volunteers and NGOs. Most importantly we need to end the obsession with keeping people out. Instead, there should be a focus on supporting member states that are willing to ‘regularise’ undocumented people who have been living and working in Europe for years.
“The new Migration Pact as proposed by the European Commission is a slap in the face for anyone who stands for human rights. The EU Migration Pact is not a framework for a new asylum policy: it is a large-scale project for forced returns,” Cornelia Ernst, MEP Die Linke
PEACE – The only war worth fighting is against war itself
The dramatic crisis imposed by the global pandemic heightened the need for urgent resources for healthcare while also guaranteeing social and environmental rights. Nonetheless, the EU Commission saw fit to continue financing the European Defence Fund while also strengthening the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) that lays the foundations for a European Defence Union.
As shown by history, arms and militarisation only lead to war. We need to put an end to public money being used for militarisation and armaments. The European Union should be serving the interests of the people of Europe instead of those of the weapons industry. As we battle our way out of a social, economic and environmental crisis, it makes no sense to provide over €25 billion for armaments and the military. Security only exists with peace and social justice.
DEMOCRACY – Real Democracies Are Anti-Fascist
When War War II ended, we said no to fascism. Thanks to the resistance of our people we built a democratic society based on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We cannot allow authoritarianism to strike back; nevertheless, these far-right waves are appearing again around Europe. Worryingly, countries such as Hungary and Poland have taken advantage of the pandemic to erode civil liberties and the rule of law in a variety of ways. At the same time, we have been spectators to an increasingly strong and organised resistance.
To preserve democracy, we need to improve scrutiny over the measures adopted by far-right governments as they cannot be misused as a cover for repressive action under the pretext of health protection. With joint action, we can build a socially equitable, peaceful and sustainable European Union where human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected for everyone.
DIGITALISATION & AI – Power to the People, not algorithms
“The coming year will be marked by digitalisation. The consequences of digitalisation will be felt in all aspects of our lives and must therefore have a social agenda from the outset.” Martin Schirdewan, The Left Co-President (Die Linke)
Digitalisation and artificial intelligence can improve the lives of the many. This is possible only if its development is done with an ecological and human-centric approach, not with a competitive, market-led stance. We are facing many risks: from the military application of artificial intelligence which leads to the development of killer robots, to the most common facial recognition systems that perpetuate the systemic bias of our societies. Most algorithms used in facial recognition technologies misidentifies non-white or non-male faces, if this is used by law enforcement authorities it can lead to wrongful arrests, charges and detention.
Our feelings are used as simple commodities. Algorithms pervade many aspects of our lives: they can regulate our relationships, filter the news we have access to, push us to make a political choice. Big firms are leading in shaping the digitalization development and they are doing it with a clear objective: their own profit margins. The digitalization process must be in the hands of the people, of public institutions capable of determining the needs of communities and of evaluating the impact of their use on our lives and on the environment.