Is Europe ready to turn away from austerity?
Well not if the Commission, Central Bank and Council of Ministers are to be believed: the austerians are still in charge even if they are beleaguered by the failure of their miracle cure to work its magic. But Policy Network sees signs – especially from social democrats in northern Europe – that a new narrative focused on improving living standards and sustainable growth through state intervention is taking hold. And yesterday, the European Trade Union Confederation adopted ‘A New Path for Europe’, a plan for investment, sustainable growth and quality jobs which will provide the meat for ETUC campaigning up to the European Parliament elections next May and beyond.
The ETUC is calling for an economic stimulus worth 2% of European GDP year on year for the next decade at least, creating up to 11 million new jobs through projects like social housing, energy efficiency measures, expanding broadband coverage and so on. It is designed to create skilled jobs with decent rates of pay, rather than zero hours contracts and the like.
The plan will be paid for by reversing austerity, and enabling governments to access the huge savings held in private hands (as much as €27 trillion according to some estimates) through Euro-Bonds, kick-started by taxes on wealth such as the Robin Hood Tax that 12 European countries are negotiating, or the banker bonus tax that Labour in the UK wants to revive.
The TUC was centrally involved in the development of what we’d call a People’s Plan for Europe and the German DGB call a new Marshall plan. Its adoption was not without its tensions, for example between trade union movements keen to ensure that the plans were prudent and realistic and those whose main priority was creating a plan that offered practical solidarity to the countries in crisis on the southern and eastern periphery of the EU. But the plan has been run through economic models used by the European Commission, and its short and long term effects are overwhelmingly positive in terms of jobs and GDP.
The ETUC press release announcing the adoption of the plan said:
“After five years of economic and social crisis, austerity policies have failed to bring recovery to Europe, which has seen its economies stagnate, its young people forced into unemployment and emigration and a divide opening-up between various member states.”
Now the ETUC and its affiliates in countries all over Europe will start campaigning, spreading the message of the campaign to members, politicians and the general public. UK unions will be meeting next week to map out how to raise the issues involved in the run up to next May’s elections, as part of the TUC call for a future that works. I particularly liked the suggestion from one of Belgium’s trade union leaders who urged us to use the slogan “The name’s Bond. Euro-Bond!”