The struggle for change in Europe has begun.
The overthrow of the Greek memorandum government is an important step that will be completed on January 25th, 2015 by the imminent grand electoral victory of SYRIZA.
This victory will not be confined only to the restoration of democracy in Greece. It will be expanded to stop the humanitarian disaster inflicted on the Greek people.
It will send a strong message to all the peoples of Europe and especially of the southern countries that would portray the following:
“The Merkelism is not invincible. Austerity can stop. Europe can change”
We, the representatives of political parties, social movements, trade-unions and other social activists of the European South that met in Barcelona, on at the 1st European South Forum, express our determination, in common, to work together, in order to defeat the neoliberal austerity strategy that has been brutally imposed in our countries through the Troika’s Memorandums, extreme national austerity programs and the structural counter-reforms. Together, we promote a collective and concrete alternative for a progressive exit from the crisis, in the direction of the re-establishment of Europe on the basis of democracy, solidarity, and social and environmental sustainability.
We do not face the current crisis as if it were either a series of “national abnormalities”, or as a conflict between Northern and Southern Europe. Instead, starting from the south, our priority is to enlarge the European front of resistance against neoliberalism and push forward European solutions that will strengthen the unity of the peoples of Europe, against the current resurgence of austericide, reactionary, chauvinistic, and extreme right-wing projects and forces.
The future of the Eurozone is not jeopardized by our plan for an immediate break from austerity and an alternative strategy for economic and social development. On the contrary, it is jeopardized by the destructive austerity that is being imposed by the neoliberal establishment, under the guidance of the present conservative majority in Europe.
Therefore, in order to put an immediate end to the European crisis and to rescue the idea of the European peoples’ unity, we urgently need a policy change:
1. A Green New Deal for Europe. The European economy has being suffering 6 years of crisis, with an average unemployment around 12%. The dangers of a 1930’s style deflation is on its doorstep. Europe could and should collectively borrow at low interest rates to finance a program of economic reconstruction, ecological transition, and sustainable and social development with emphasis on investment in people, social protection, public services, energy, technology and needed infrastructures. The program would help crisis ravaged economies to break free from the vicious cycle of recession and rising debt ratios, to create jobs, and to sustain recovery.
2. Defeating unemployment. The average European unemployment is today the highest since official records began. Today, almost 27 million people are unemployed in the European Union out of which more than 19 million belong to the Eurozone. The official unemployment Eurozone average has risen from 7,8% in 2008 to 11,5% in August 2014. For Greece, from 7,7% to 26,4% and for Spain from 11,3% to 24,4% during the same period. We urgently need a major job creation plan, which will create, through targeted European and national public investments supported by the ECB, secure, stable and dignified employment and viable life-prospects for millions of Europeans, especially young people, women and immigrants who have been brutally victimized and relegated to social exclusion.
3. Credit expansion to cooperatives and small and medium-sized firms. Credit conditions in Europe have deteriorated sharply. Small and medium-sized firms have been hit especially hard. Thousands of them, particularly in the crisis-hit economies of the European South, have been forced to close, not because they were not viable, but due to the absence of credit fluidity and the lack of demand. The consequences for jobs have been dire. Extraordinary times require non-conventional action: the European Central Bank should follow the example of other Central Banks all around the world and provide cheap credit to banks, on the strict pre-condition that those same banks increase their lending to small and medium-sized enterprises by a corresponding amount.
4. Suspension of the new European fiscal framework, as a pre-condition for the exercise of a truly sustainable and developmental fiscal policy.
5. A genuine European Central Bank – lender of last resort for member-states, not only for banks. The commitment to act as lender of last resort should be unconditional and should not depend on the conditioning or submission of a member state’s agreement to a reform program with the European Stability Mechanism.
6. Macroeconomic and social readjustment: Countries with surpluses should do as much as deficit countries to correct macroeconomic imbalances within Europe. Europe should monitor, assess and demand action from countries with current account surpluses, in the form of stimuli, in order to alleviate the unilateral pressure on deficit countries. The current asymmetry in the adjustment between surplus and deficit countries does not harm the deficit countries alone. It harms Europe as a whole.
7. A European Glass-Steagall Act. The aim is to separate the commercial from the investment banking activities and prevent such a dangerous merging of risks into one uncontrolled entity.
8. Effective European legislation to tax offshore economic and entrepreneurial activities.
9. A European Debt Conference, with the participation of all the public members involved at a state, European and international level, inspired by the London Debt Agreement of 1953, which essentially relieved Germany of the economic burden of its own past and thus assisted the post-war reconstruction of the country. Such a conference must come up with a solution negotiated and adapted to each country, for each creditor and bondholder including the partial restructuring of terms and interest rates, the abolition of a large part of the public debts and the introduction of a “growth clause” for the repayment of the remaining parts. In that context all available policy instruments should be employed, including the European Central Bank, acting as last resort lender to issue special Eurobonds that would either replace national debt or lead to a significant debt forgiveness.
10. A resolute fight against fraud and corruption, and the crony capitalism suffered by our countries.
All these must go hand by hand with a committed struggle against patriarchy, inequalities, and against racism and xenophobia.
Before and after the outburst of the crisis, ideas as those proposed above were treated by the neoliberal establishment as “illusionist” and “populist”. Today, such ideas that formulate a concrete alternative against austerity are becoming more and more assumed and defended by our peoples and compete for social and political majorities in a number of European countries. It’s high time we transform popular discontent and aspiration into a massive political wave of change, for the establishment of economic democracy, popular sovereignty and environmental sustainability. The year 2015 can signal a new historical cycle of progress for our countries and Europe.
It’s time to make markets pay! The drift to increased inequality and precarious employment is not a real option for working people in Europe. Market structures affect protective institutional arrangements (welfare states, industrial relations rules, political systems, and other societal arrangements) in a way that Europe is stepping back from human rights and the burden of economic adjustment is not at all shared equally across European societies.
Therefore, we, the forces and organizations gathered here, commit to:
Work in coordination and provide the political and social momentum to achieve these changes;
- Monitor the social and economic performance in our countries and our continent;
- Foster the European Conference on Debt; and
- Ensure continuity to the work of this Forum. And from this promoting team, and with the incorporation of all parties and organizations here gathered and the ones still to come, bolster new and future editions of this Forum.
Barcelona, 24th January 2015
The Guardian reports,