Steering the stormy waters of Europe’s recovery

Written by Iratxe García Pérez on 19 May 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

The EU ship needs a strong engine and a clear destination, as it navigates the post-COVID-19 world, writes Iratxe García.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


“We’re all in the same boat” is a phrase we hear and see everywhere at the moment. Again, as was the case during the 2008 financial crisis, many are using seafaring and storm metaphors to describe the waves and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

However, this time it is different. Unlike the 2008 crisis, which was caused by greed around the selling of sub-prime financial products and the speculative economy, the current health crisis and its socio-economic effects do actually better reflect the image of a natural storm. 

And yet, there are many lessons we can learn from the previous crisis and our mistakes in handling it. Because once we are confronted with a rough sea, it is in our own hands exactly how we decide to reach a safe port. 


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And, I believe, an ocean liner with a powerful engine and a committed crew with a clear goal can make all the difference.

The EU must act like that liner, and avoid punishing those member states or citizens that are most vulnerable to the storm. While leaving the helm to governing bodies of every member state, Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament are fighting so that solutions are not left on national shoulders alone. 

Solidarity, convergence and sustainability must be the guiding principles in setting our compass. The EU cannot just be the sum of national responses, all sailing in different directions and at different speeds.

The EU has already come up with concrete help for its member states. The Emergency Package was an adequate, immediate response allowing countries enough fiscal space to manoeuvre and find the financial means to start fighting against COVID19. 

And just this week we are one step closer to a Recovery Plan, alongside to the next seven-year budget of the EU that will hopefully make sure that workers and citizens are placed at the core of the post-pandemic recovery. Even more, we’re pushing the European Commission and Council to look more closely at the possible use of new own resources. 

“We’re all together in the same storm, that’s true. And only by working together will we sail through it and survive”

And as happens with every storm, this one, too, shall pass. But how we steer through it together will determine our health and shape in the aftermath. 

When the winds recede, we need to have a well-tailored, fully functional and adequately-funded recovery instrument. This is why we are asking for a recovery fund of at least €1.5 trillion that will come as an addition to the multiannual financial framework (MFF), the next 7-year budget of the EU. 

Funding for the fund should come from fresh money, primarily the EU’s own resources and recovery bonds, which will not become an immediate debt anchor. 

Everyone will have to make an effort, but when we discuss the recovery fund, we must always keep people in mind. When a ship is in danger, it’s the most vulnerable passengers that first need to be protected. 

It’s just a universal human principle. So when millions of Europeans risk losing their jobs or falling into poverty, the EU must be there for them. Jobs must be protected; social security must be ensured; health must become again a European priority and a shared concern. 

It is time to think of ‘the whole’ and put money wherever it is most needed. With only one condition: the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights. No crooks should be allowed to take advantage of this exceptional situation. 

We’re all together in the same storm, that’s true. And only by working together will we sail through it and survive.

About the author

Iratxe García Pérez is head of the European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats Group

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