The fight for a genuinely democratic Europe

In France, the Manifesto of Appalled Economists underlined some of the country’s most prominent economic concerns about the European response to the global crisis. It was signed by over 700 economists and more than 6,500 concerned citizens. Today, we publish their call for a more open, more democratic European Union.

Esther Jeffers
25 October 2012
 Refuser le pacte budgétaire et ouvrir d'autres perspectives en Europe (book cover, detail). Les Economistes attérrés/Les Liens qui Libèrent. All rights reserved.

From L'Europe mal-traitée : Refuser le pacte budgétaire et ouvrir d'autres perspectives en Europe (book cover, detail). Les Economistes attérrés/Les Liens qui Libèrent. All rights reserved.

The crisis has made bitterly obvious the dangers that a neoliberal policies-dominated Europe represents. Liberalization and financialization have made countries whose economic and social levels are quite disparate compete against each other. Fiscal dumping (competition over which country can lower the corporate and capital gains tax rates most) has been followed by social dumping (health care, unemployment, and retirement benefits, labor conditions and social rights). The record in all economic, social, environmental, and gender equality fields is catastrophic, and the result today is the most severe economic crisis since 1929.

European institutions have never functioned in a democratic manner. The excessive powers entrusted to the Commission and the European Court of Justice in order to enforce the provisions of the Eurozone’s Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance or “budgetary pact,” and the considerable punitive arsenal set up to deal with any violations, speak volumes about the idea of democracy guiding the functioning of the Eurozone. As for the European Central Bank (ECB), it doesn’t have to report to anyone. Its purpose has never been to serve the common good, but rather the banking and non-banking financial institutions. The ECB allowed speculators to force sky-high interest rates on Greece, Spain, and Italy, while within two months it was able to dig up €1 trillion for the Eurozone banks without them giving any account on the use made of these amounts, and although they are responsible for the crisis. Although the grave nature of the crisis finally forced the ECB to make an exception to one of its dogmas of monetary policy, since it has agreed to purchase Greek and Italian government bonds, it has agreed to do so only on the secondary market, that is, by buying sovereign bonds from financial institutions and not from the issuing countries themselves. It is willing to be the lender of last resort for banks, but refuses to play the same role for countries, even in a time of crisis, in the name of its sacrosanct independence.

Rather than having its own nations be competitors, pitting their peoples against each other, Europe should apply policies of cooperation and solidarity between European populations, and for that it is necessary to endow it with genuine economic leadership that ties together the monetary, budgetary, and fiscal dimensions—leadership that is actually subjected to democratic debates. The fight for a different Europe is fundamentally a fight for the democracy that to a large extent has been confiscated by the current institutions, a fight by citizens—women and men—to take charge of their own future, to have a say on the future of Europe. It is essential for working people to have the power to block anti-social and anti-ecological measures, but also to propose popular initiatives and consultations for citizens to voice their demands.  They need to participate in decisions so that the principal choices are debated and approved by the people and for the people.

In other words, Europe must become a democratic political project—which it is not at all today—one that coordinates all economic policies, including monetary policy. Economic policies must break with the logic of neoliberalism and help promote a new development model, non-productivist, freed from the stranglehold of finance, and grounded in the respect of that which is held in common and the central role of public policy and services. In order to find a way out of the crisis we should fight for a social, ecological, and feminist transition.

Europe is at a turning point. Either it does not draw any lesson from the crisis and flounders definitively in a deadly logic, abandoning the values that are at the basis of human society, or we succeed in making democracy and solidarity the priority in building a different Europe, a Europe that broadens that which is held in common, such as healthcare, education, the environment, and equality, a Europe at the service of all citizens—women and men. The necessity of struggles on a European scale, linked to national struggles, is thus becoming an imperative, just as is the necessity to define common demands for all those who want to fight for a different Europe.

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