'Blind austerity' is not the future voters want for Europe

'Collective effort' is needed by all to rescue those eurozone countries which face difficulty, explains Ana Gomes.

By Ana Gomes

01 May 2014

Portugal is one of the EU countries most hardly hit by the financial and economic crisis that fell down on Europe at the end of 2008. Most importantly, being under a severe austerity package imposed by the all-mighty troika (European commission, the international monetary fund and the European central bank) blessed and effectively reinforced by the right-wing, conservative government of prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho and deputy prime minister Paulo Portas, Portugal and the Portuguese people are undergoing the worst social rights setback since the Carnation revolution of April 1974, forty years ago.

Not only did the government of Portugal inflict the most severe attack on the Portuguese well-being, power of purchase and, hence, their quality of life, the administration ran by the twosome Coelho-Portas, managed to consistently lacerate the well-being of those most in need of protection and of those who had, through their lifetime of work, contributed in a fair and legitimate manner to the welfare state. This crisis, and the austericide programme my country is under, aimed at targeting the elderly, the pensioners, the retirees, the public servants and the young.

"The European elections are a powerful moment to show, not only in Portugal but all over Europe, that blind austerity stripped of any primary social concern, stripped of dignity and social justice is not the Europe we want for our future"

Portugal, under the leadership of socialist prime minister José Sócrates officially asked for a bail-out on April 2011. But the austerity programme, which was then enacted by the right-wing coalition, went far beyond what was socially and humanely reasonable and sensible. And the consequences of such policy making will be felt for many years to come, it will (it is already) compromise a whole generation's ability to empower and emancipate itself. In the long run, the consequences will be disastrous. The people - and the fleeing youth which is more than ever leaving the country on the look for jobs and dignity - have understood this.

The people of my country are not only tired of the calamitous austerity measures, which were at the beginning sold out as temporary and will progress to become permanent. The people of Portugal feel humiliated for having to pay at such high cost for the financially and economically irresponsible behaviour of those in the banking sector and elsewhere. This is why the European elections are a powerful moment to show, not only in Portugal but all over Europe, that blind austerity stripped of any primary social concern, stripped of dignity and social justice is not the Europe we want for our future. I am confident that this cry will indeed resonate in all corners of the continent and am, above all, confident that a new and social Europe, one that puts welfare, social justice, employment, sustainable growth and jobs is the only way we can actually rid Europe of the phantom of this terrible crisis and put it again on the tracks of greater and deeper political integration.

It is undeniable that the earthquake that reverberated all through Europe after 2008 has managed to shake the noble foundations of the European Union itself. And it is hardly surprising that it so happened. Europe is currently run by a conservative, right-wing generation of political leaders that have no idea what the EU was actually founded for. And this is exactly why solidarity was the first principle to be put into question when it came to rescuing the failing southerners Greece and Portugal. We need to make one thing very clear in our Europe of today: if the German people, the Brits or the Finns do not understand the collective effort that is needed, for the benefit of all, themselves included, to rescue eurozone countries in difficulty, it is because their conservative and often obscurantist governments did not want to make it clear to them that what we do in Europe is for the common purpose - I would dare say the common good. Should we fail, then, it will be to everybody's loss, even those countries who believe themselves to be above the randomness of an incompliant and criminal banking industry.

Read the most recent articles written by Ana Gomes - Fundamental rights and big data: striking a balance

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