Only through stronger political integrationtruly progressive and realistic ideas and greater influence in the European political space, we can implement ambitious social and economic policies, write the MEPs of the three factions and members of the Progressive Caucus.
The authors of the text are MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D), MEP Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA) and Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL).
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We are witnessing a war that until recently seemed unthinkable. Invasion Vladimir Poutine on Ukraine it has shown that today more than ever we need the unity of the European Union. The way to this unity is deeper political integration, and above all the implementation of the postulates proposed in the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE).
The global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the Eurozone crisis of 2010-2012 and the COVID-19 pandemic are signs of the collapse of the neoliberal doctrine, which for decades unreasonably extolled the benefits of financial deregulation, labor market liberalization, privatization of state enterprises and public services, industrial relocation, unsustainable free trade and minimal state.
Due to the promotion of this doctrine, the entire economic system has become unsustainable, unstable and crisis-prone. Economic, social and regional inequalities have widened considerably and basic public services – in particular health and social assistance – have been weakened from the start of the pandemic.
Many of these neoliberal concepts were already promoted by the EU and individual Member States in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, despite the existence of key social policy instruments such as the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Charter European Social Security (ESC), such as as well as groundbreaking pieces of legislation such as the Working Time Directive.
The launch of the euro in 1992 created both new opportunities and new challenges. In many cases, it reinforced the free market orientation and competition typical of neoliberalism. The overriding objectives of fiscal policy are to slow the pace of inflation, reduce the deficit and the debt, all based on faulty assumptions in the area of economic governance, to the detriment of the labor market, social policy and the environment.
The European Union under the leadership Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy With the right-wing majority in the EU institutions, he responded to the debt crisis in 2010 with an extreme policy of budget cuts, thus triggering a second recession, impoverishment of society and growing social discontent, as well as than increased support for distant countries. right-wing, eurosceptic, anti-European and anti-immigrant political forces.
Nevertheless, in some areas of EU policy, changes were brought about by the expansive monetary policy of the European Central Bank, and later also by the first Investment Plan for Europe (the so-called Juncker – ed.), Although to a very limited extent, and the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPRS) – an important statement, but of a non-binding nature. Other key initiatives of those years, although extremely important, remain unfinished, such as the banking union with a common deposit guarantee.
The pandemic has already forced the Union to abandon old dogmas, if not abandon them entirely, in favor of a more flexible and progressive approach aimed at restoring the balance between the market and the State to the benefit of the latter. The application of the public debt rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) has been suspended to keep incomes and jobs constant. The Health Union was launched, under which, among other things, joint purchases of COVID-19 vaccines by EU member states.
The EU’s Next Generation EU reconstruction plan, financed by Eurobonds (the same ones that were rejected for no reason in 2010), was based on the distribution of grants and loans, for which the debt incurred will be repaid to the future, among other things, of taxes on financial transactions, CO2 emissions and digital platforms. Such a system is the seed of a financial and fiscal union. We support this solution, but for it to bring tangible benefits, it requires coherent political and strategic planning. There is also a need for greater transparency and accountability for the system to have full democratic legitimacy.
The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is an excellent tool to take advantage of the opportunities that the coronavirus pandemic has created for the Union. The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) requires in-depth reform and transformation into a pact for sustainable development and employment.
The main objectives of such a pact would be social justice, full employment and a green environment, the adoption of new realistic rules on debt and deficit, and the setting of realistic objectives of social, economic and regional convergence by excluding public investment from the calculation of the debt and the deficit.
The recovery plan must become a permanent tool for financing social convergence and implementing green and digital transformation, accompanied by a countercyclical policy.
The European Central Bank should be able to provide direct financial assistance to the Union in the event of an emergency, such as an epidemic. The EPSR should be included in the Treaty in the same way as the four fundamental freedoms of the internal market or the objectives of climate neutrality.
It is high time to adopt a more humane migration policy, which fully respects human rights and the fundamental values of the EU and is based on the shared responsibility of the Member States.
Europe, struggling with demographic decline and depopulation of rural areas, will undoubtedly benefit from well-managed and orderly migration. At the same time, the EU must show solidarity with people fleeing persecution and armed conflict. During the crisis caused by Putin’s attack, the EU should join forces to ensure peace and security for all.
In the decade between two crises – the financial collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic – there has been an excessive concentration of power in the hands of the Council in the EU, to the detriment of Parliament, which is, after all , the only EU institution directly elected by the citizens.
At the same time, the role of the Commission as guardian of the Treaties is diminishing. This strong tendency to make decisions through intergovernmental mechanisms has not only deepened the democratic deficit, but also limited progress in social policy, including because of the requirement of unanimity. The emergence of a financial and fiscal union only exacerbates this dilemma.
Therefore, the Parliament should have the right of co-decision with the Council on fiscal and debt policy, as well as the right of legislative initiative. The Council should become a real “chamber of States”, taking its decisions by qualified majority. The Union must also stop tolerating breaches of the rule of law by Member States.
In addition, EU-wide constituencies should be established to stimulate transnational debate on European affairs. Transnational election campaigns will make European political parties more visible and stronger, while enabling the permanent implementation of so-called lead candidates (spitzenkandidaten) in elections for the presidency of the European Commission.
We are committed to pursuing the above political and institutional objectives through the Conference on the Future of Europe – an innovative forum involving social partners and civil society.
We believe that this initiative can pave the way for a more united and progressive Europe, providing in a fair and transnational way the public goods that citizens expect and need from it.
The European Union must become a model for the Member States and the world as a defender of the values of democracy and peace on which the Union is built.