EU must end the 'toxic medicine' of austerity

The time has come to reclaim democracy from the elites, writes Gabriele Zimmer.

By Gabriele Zimmer

27 Jan 2015

Our group's immediate focus as the year begins is on the political situation in Greece, where our comrades in Syriza are on the cusp of taking power. In light of this challenge to the 'memoranda era' with its failed austerity, the political and corporate elite in Europe have launched an undemocratic propaganda campaign to spread fear and lies among Greek voters about the so-called 'dangers' of electing a radical left government. They are scrambling to defend the very status quo that brought about the deepest economic and social crisis since the EU's foundation, because the forces backing them still benefit from this unfair system. We will do everything possible to support Syriza and the Greek population.

"The political and corporate elite in Europe have launched an undemocratic propaganda campaign to spread fear and lies among Greek voters"

In Greece, democracy has been on hold for the last five years. We want to see economic power back in the hands of sovereign governments and not with financial markets represented by unelected commission officials who prescribe the medicine of austerity which they are not required to take themselves. A medicine that was toxic for both the Greek and the EU economy and led only to poverty, higher unemployment, wage cuts, rising retirement ages, diminished workers' rights and cuts to health and education spending.

While people suffer from this austerity, big business continues to profit from a system of legal global tax evasion. The 'LuxLeaks' scandal once again highlighted that the corporate elites are the real tax dodgers. And furthermore, multinationals are increasingly being put on an equal footing with sovereign nations amid backroom negotiations on future trade deals like the EU-US transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

The investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that is being negotiated as part of TTIP could lead to sovereign governments having to compensate multinationals with taxpayers' money if regulation runs counter to corporate interests and profits. Such a mechanism would see decades of gains in social and environmental protections rolled back with grave consequences for consumers, social protection, public health, and the environment. Encouragingly, awareness of these social costs has led to mounting public criticism of TTIP and strengthened the movement against it. GUE/NGL MEPs will continue to fight for a citizens' trade agenda.

TTIP is just one cog in the commission's deregulation agenda: its regulatory fitness and performance programme (REFIT) for better regulation is being used as a pretext to weaken health, safety, and environmental standards, under the guise of cutting red tape.

As Latvia takes charge of the rotating EU council presidency, competitiveness and growth have once again been named as top priorities. But at what cost? We call on the Latvian government not to consider labour and social protections as obstacles to growth and not to view protecting our planet as subordinate to a competitive economy. Use of European digital potential in EU development is also one of the key Latvian priorities. Our group wants to safeguard the principle of net neutrality and protect privacy and private data on the internet.

Finally, amid ever more global instability and bloodshed, the EU must reject the military-industrial complex and act as a global actor for peace. We must also protect the refugees fleeing from warzones, particularly from Syria. The EU needs a holistic approach to migration that creates safe and legal ways to access protection in Europe. We want an EU of solidarity, not one of far-right fear and discrimination.


Read the most recent articles written by Gabriele Zimmer - Zimmer calls for end to 'austerity obsession'