“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”
When it comes to the the reform of the euro zone, European leaders have long ignored these wise words. Another disastrous economic crisis could be just around the corner. With some economic stability returning to the old continent, we have the chance, and the responsibility, to fix the way the eurozone operates.
We have the chance, and the responsibility, to fix the way the eurozone operates.
It has been 8 years since economic crisis hit Europe, highlighting systemic flaws in the eurozone’s functions. Imposed austerity on struggling countries just compounded the suffering of the most vulnerable. Growing unemployment led to reduced access to free education and healthcare, and even home evictions. Inequality and rising poverty has become a living tragedy for millions of Europeans. Some countries drowned in debt, while others exploited misery for profit; some sustained high numbers of unemployed people, while others artificially suppressed wages to become more ‘competitive’.
Today, while Germany can borrow money at an interest rate of 0.39% a year, Greece pays 5.59% for its respective government debts. The imbalance is huge and benefits both rich countries and their banks. For example, German banks and the German state recently cashed in on €1.3 billion in interest from Greek taxpayers. The Greek bailout, which benefitted primarily French and German banks, was never meant to exploit the Greek people. This episode alone illustrates the real state of our Eurozone ‘family’.
The institutions that govern the euro, like the Eurogroup and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), were constructed outside EU treaties, which means transparency and parliamentary supervision are currently out of the question. Both institutions are opaque and have no democratic oversight.
To create a fair and democratic euro, the eurozone urgently needs reform.
For any union to work, its parts must be guided by solidarity, not self-interest.
Politicians have started to claim we are out of the woods. If that’s true, the time to improve the way our economy works to avoid repeating past tragedies and injustices is now. For any union to work, its parts must be guided by solidarity, not self-interest. Without solidarity and mutual support, the EU will crumble and fall prey to the eurosceptics and the far-right.
We urgently need investment programmes dedicated giving decent jobs to young people, replacing dirty fuels with renewable energy, ensuring universally accessible public services, and other pressing challenges. For that we need a eurozone budget where all countries contribute to funding solutions across Europe.
Who sets the terms of the debate?
So far, certainly not progressives. This debate will influence the economic policies of many countries, and therefore the opportunities and the well-being of hundreds of millions. But progressives have so far forfieted the debate and failed to engage citizens.
For his part, Juncker published a ‘reflection paper’ on the deepening of the economic and monetary Union before the summer and further drilled ‘more euro integration’ at this State of the Union speech in early September.
Macron has kept the life in the discussion by, in late September, proposing a more integrated eurozone with its own budget, managed by a finance minister who would be held responsible by a eurozone parliament.
But Gentiloni, Rajoy and other European leaders have had a rather timid go at sharing their views on the matter.
Why are we waiting for the debate to be framed for us?
In a key discussion that will define how cooperative, and how stable, our joint euro economy becomes, no progressive force or figures have come forward with clear positions, nor are progressive movements even talking about the topic. Euro reform could be anything from strengthening existing rules that mostly promote austerity to new rules focused on public welfare. Why are we waiting for the debate to be framed for us?
We, the people
As progressives, we don’t only have the chance, but the responsibility to intervene in this debate before what’s possible and what’s not is determined by conservatives and liberals.
We Move Europe has made a first move. In only 2 weeks more than 54,693 Europeans mobilised to ask those involved in German coalition negotiations to continue the euro project in a fair way based on solidarity. We must change the Eurozone architecture and create an ambitious budget, more investments,and a more democratic EU.
We, the progressives
Before taking action, thousands of WeMove.EU members were surveyed. They overwhelmingly agreed the eurozone cannot continue as is, and that the past 10 years have shown us how lacking European solidarity is in times of crisis. Many shared feedback that, while they understand the importance of this topic to their lives, they’d benefit from more information, more data, and more explanations. What are we waiting for?
By mid-December, at the next EU Summit, we expect Euro reform to be on the agenda. As progressives we have a historic responsibility to intervene in the debate before it’s framed and progressive options forever discarded.