Europe descending into 'survival of the fittest' neoliberalism
by Søren Søndergaard
Progressives must unite to put an end to the EU-led austerity offensive that is destroying welfare states and public services – claims MEP
European Union governments and their arch-technocrats in the European Commission and the European Central Bank have successfully used the sovereign debt crisis as a window of opportunity to consolidate and advance a technocratic and neoliberal EU. The attack is two-fold: claiming that the crisis was caused by the fabled 'bloated' welfare state, European governments have launched a savage austerity offensive on the public sector making unemployed people, and workers, pay for the crisis. In effect, the EU's current strategy to bring about growth and jobs to Europe is failing as it ignores the fact that it was deregulatory policies and market liberalisation that led to the banking crisis in the first place.
Secondly, the attack consists of an attempt to consolidate neoliberal policies by enshrining them in law. The continuous stream of misguided policies, from the Euro Pact to the Six Pack to the new Fiscal treaty – also known as the 'Austerity Treaty' - has resulted in the permanent cementing of mechanisms into law that are increasing levels of inequality across the continent. With the latest commission proposal for a banking union, the EU will progress even further into technocracy. As a result, more than 25 million European are now jobless. Never in recent history have so many people been out of work. Deteriorating living standards, homelessness and restricted access to public services are commonplace features in both the hardest hit peripheral countries as well as in the rest of Europe.
For obvious reasons, these attacks have been challenged by social movements and leftist parties. While there is courageous and inspiring resistance at the local and national level - there is very little coordination, cooperation or mobilisation at the EU level and across member states. That could easily become a formula for defeat by division. Those leading the EU's austerity offensive will not fear a general strike in Greece or mass demonstrations in Spain or Italy, unless these struggles are compounded by continent-wide demonstrations that challenge the legitimacy of EU institutions and their policies.
We need to get the message across that continuing with this austerity doctrine will be a catastrophe for Europe - meaning it has never been more important for parties of the left, social movements, non-governmental organisations and trade unions to come together and build a strategy for pan-European mobilisation. On October 17, my group in the European Parliament will host a workshop that aims to link up these forces and their alternatives to austerity ahead of the November conference in Florence - Firenze 10+10. It marks a decade of convergence between social movements and civil society organisations under the 'European Social Forum' umbrella. We need to act now to safeguard the future of the welfare state and end the "survival of the fittest" Europe being designed by today's crop of neoliberal governments.
Søren Søndergaard is a Danish MEP and member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament
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This comment is woefully lacking in substance. He provides no evidence that neo-liberalism - a term left undefined - is running rampant in Europe/EU: where are the widespread privatisation; deregulation; even decrease in per cent of GDP claimed by states?
He suggested that "bloated welfare state" is being blamed but gives no counter-argument as to why it deserves no blame or even less blame?
He refers to a "savage austerity offensive on the public sector" but the reality is that there has been a decrease in the rate of increase of public sector spending, at most.
In all events, so-called austerity is nothing more than trying to correct unsustainable imbalances based upon political commitments that do not match economic realities.
His promotion of social & political disruptions across Europe/ EU is irresponsible.
CHRISTOPHER LINGLE - Woodstock
Christopher, surely you are against privatisation. You may like the European Citizens' Initiative on the human right to water.
Pian - Næstved, Denmark