The EU must start putting people first

The EU must start putting people first

The EU must start putting people first

In the second of our articles from the group leaders in the European Parliament, Gabriele Zimmer MEP, Leader of the GUE/NGL group of MEPs in the European Parliament, writes exclusively for Endeavour Public Affairs.  In her article she states that the EU leaders must move beyond looking for purely economic solutions to the current crisis.  She concludes that her group will continue to pursue their mission for a “more human and tangible European Union.”

Those at the top of EU decision-making spent the first half of 2012 in meeting after meeting which resulted in nothing but the same dreadful plans time and again.  The many summits fail to offer solutions for the millions of people caught in a rapidly deteriorating economic and social situation.  Recent unemployment figures reveal the tragedy for those Europeans struggling to make a living.  At 25 million, there have never in the history of Europe been so many unemployed.

It has been clear for some time that the obsession with austerity and cuts, together with the neo-liberal policies being pushed as a universal remedy to the current situation, is exacerbating economic and social difficulties across Europe.  The growth and jobs package put forward by the Council (without concrete targets) will not solve the problems of the most vulnerable in countries such as Greece or Spain.  It is about time to clear the way for possible solutions such as direct intervention of the ECB on the primary sovereign bond market; a real growth programme; and a concerted effort to fight tax fraud and evasion.

At the beginning of September, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) will continue to back these solutions until we see a radically new approach that puts people before profits.  Our MEPs will keep voicing their opposition to the fiscal treaty’s institutionalisation of austerity and to the economic governance “six pack” and “two pack” sets of rules for economic and fiscal surveillance.  We urgently need a reversal of these austerity measures which have been forced upon Europeans since the beginning of the crisis.  The financial sector and the wealthiest should pay for the way out of the current crisis.  My political group is at the forefront of campaigning for an international financial transaction tax, for public control of the banking sector and for the closure of tax havens.

A central focus of our work is the fight for an EU target for minimum wage norms at national, regional or sectoral level.  We call for remuneration of at least 60 per cent of the respective average wage and will propose a timetable as to when this target must be achieved by all Member States.  During the reform process of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), GUE/NGL MEPs will call for a well-funded, flexible and simplified CAP.  We will carry on highlighting the dangers posed by the notion of macroeconomic conditionality for the major EU funds.  Access to cohesion policy and regional development funds must not become an instrument of punishment for regions.  As we want to see real improvements in people’s living and social conditions and given the crisis’s negative impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment, we will continue fighting against the gender pay gap, for equal participation in decision-making, and pushing for a comprehensive EU strategy on violence against women.

The Cyprus EU presidency will be an ally to the GUE/NGL.  For the first time in the history of the European Union the sitting President of the Council is a member of our political family.  Cyprus’s President Demetris Christofias has made clear that his presidency will focus on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.  We look forward to working within the institutions to advance this all too rare agenda and supporting the Cyprus presidency in its attempts to challenge the willful misunderstanding at the top of politics of fundamental values such as freedom, justice and democracy.

I am worried that the obsession with trying to find merely economic solutions to this crisis is separating the European Union more and more from the citizens it is supposed to represent.  We will call on EU leaders to calm, rather than stoke fear; to combat, rather than increase inequalities; to empower, rather than restrain democracy. From within the European Parliament we will continue to pursue our mission for a more human and tangible European Union.

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