Friday, November 23, 2012


November is a true European crisis month. It started on November 14 with a day of action of the ETUC. In different capitals in the European Union strikes were held, demonstrations and manifestations against the austerity measures. For the occasion, the ETUC has issued a statement:

The European trade union movement has for years been denouncing austerity measures. They are dragging Europe into economic stagnation and even recession. The result is that growth has stalled and unemployment continues to rise. Wages and social protection cuts are attacks against the European social model and increase inequality and social injustice. The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s «miscalculations» have had an unbearable impact on the daily life of European workers and citizens. It brings into question the whole basis of austerity policy. The IMF must apologize. The Troika must revise its demands. Europe has a social debt, not just a monetary debt. The promised recovery has not happened. Twenty-five million
Europeans are out of jobs. In some countries, the unemployment rate for young people is over 50 per cent. The sense of injustice is widespread and social discontent is growing. We want action for sustainable growth and jobs. Not just words. The social situation is urgent.”

The ETUC proposes:
* Economic governance at the service of sustainable growth and quality jobs,
* Economic and social justice through redistribution policies, taxation
and social protection,
* Employment guarantees for young people,
* An ambitious European industrial policy steered towards a green,
low-carbon economy and forward-looking sectors with employment
opportunities and growth,
* A more intense fight against social and wage dumping,
* Pooling of debt through Euro-bonds,
* Effective implementation of a financial transaction tax to tackle
speculation and enable investment policies,
* Harmonisation of the tax base with a minimum rate for companies
across Europe,
* A determined effort to fight tax evasion and fraud,
* Respect for collective bargaining and social dialogue,
* Respect for fundamental social and trade union rights.

However, these proposals are still far away to be accepted. The Nordic European countries are resolutely opposed to the pooling of debt through Eurobonds. Great Britain rejects the idea of financial transaction tax as an intent to destroy London city as world financial centre. London city accounts for about 9% of the British gross national product.

The three important players in the European crisis. Left Mr. Europe the Belgian Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council of European leaders. Next to him the French Cristine Lagarde, Director General of the IMF. On the left the Portuguese José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.

In the meantime the so-called Greek debts crisis continues its own story. This month Greece needs another credit of  € 44 billion to keep its national economy going on. However, IMF and the EU don’t agree about the next steps. One agrees that the given time is too short for the reduction of the Greek debt to 120% of GDP. Therefore Europe is prepared to give Greece more time but this means extra money.  Who has to pay this? The IMF wants no more delays and calls for further debt cancellation. The European politicians find this unacceptable because, as they say, their voters do not want to spend a penny more on Greece.

The story continued Thursday 22 November with a strike of several thousand European officials. They don’t agree with the impending cuts in the EU budget 2014-2020. The officials are worried that the result will be a severe reduction of their wages. The unions point out that the cost of  Europe for its citizens amounts to only  67 cents per day while only 3% of the EU budget goes to salaries. According to the unions there has been savings since 2004 for an amount of  € 3 billion. Another 5% will be saved from now until 2020. The public has difficulties to take serious the strike of the European officials because they earn a lot compared to the officials in most European countries, while at the same time they pay only about 12% tax.

This week, European leaders negotiate the aforementioned European multiannual budget. Until now one could not agree on the budget increase to about €1000 billion. Net fee payers to Europe such as England, Denmark and the Netherlands are opposed. England and Denmark have already threatened a veto. The countries that receive more from Europe than they pay as fee want a budget increase. One wonders what will be the outcome.

If the budget does not increase, Europe will not be able to stimulate economic growth. As we know now this means another defeat for the ETUC that wants Europe to stimulate economic growth more than before.

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