MEPs must address 'wealth inequality', says Oxfam

Redressing the balance between rich and poor must be a priority for MEPs in the European parliament's new legislature, argues Natalia Alonso.

By Natalia Alonso

30 May 2014

Members of the European parliament are back in force, jostling for position and power. Where are the most exciting dossiers, what are the hot issues, how best to make a difference? Oxfam congratulates every parliamentarian for their place at the heart of Europe. MEPs do have power, they can take a position and they can make a difference in many areas of policy making. But above all they can make a difference in how citizens see Europe and how they see their place in Europe. Is the Europe we have, the Europe we want?

"How can a Europe that has €9.5 trillion hidden in European tax havens be the Europe that citizens want?"

With nearly one in three Europeans at risk of poverty by 2025, addressing wealth inequality should be priority for new parliamentarians. How can a Europe that has €9.5 trillion hidden in European tax havens be the Europe that citizens want? The first task for MEPs is to take on the wealthy elite and multinational corporations to make sure they pay their fair share of taxes. Only by making sure everyone pays their fair share can governments afford public services like health and education.

And while Europe remains hooked on fossil fuels - such as gas and oil - and some countries look for shale gas, fuel import prices continue to rise and energy security is at risk. What's more, dependency on dirty energy is fuelling climate change, which is creating floods, droughts and crop failures around the world, forcing food prices up. Europe's poor will increasingly face the choice between eating and heating. In developing countries it becomes a matter of life and death. Is this the Europe that people want?

The transition from fossil fuel dependence towards a future of sustainable renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaner air through CO2 emissions cuts will tackle energy dependency. What's more, it will create more and better jobs, improve food security and health at home and globally, and help Europe take a leadership role at the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris next year.

"For social justice to be at the heart of decision-making, the EU must provide global leadership to overcome the growing gap between rich and poor"

Around the world, Oxfam works to help people lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. We campaign so that the voices of the poor influence the decisions that affect them. The European Union has a unique and powerful role in the world as a progressive leader in the global effort to redress the balance between rich and poor. Today the global challenges of poverty and climate change are an uncomfortable reality in every European country. The Europe that citizens deserve takes these issues seriously and tackles the very policies that cause poverty and climate change.

In our interconnected world, when the poorest suffer, all of society will suffer. For social justice to be at the heart of decision-making, the EU must provide global leadership to overcome the growing gap between rich and poor. Looking beyond national and political party differences to see what we have in common, our shared values of democracy, social justice, equality and shine through. This is the kind of Europe that people want.

Empower people: If we don’t ensure the world's poorest countries have a real chance to develop themselves, so all people everywhere can enjoy fair and free societies, we miss a big chance for world stability.

Ensure tax justice: 85 people in the world own as much wealth as half the world's population. When multinationals or individuals get rich by exploiting different national tax rules it is not fair. With fair tax rules, health and education is available to all.

Fight climate change to safeguard food security: Climate change is already causing floods, droughts, food price rises and migration at unprecedented levels. Europe will be caught in a food and energy price crunch. False solutions like biofuels which take food off of people's plates are not part of the solution.

Act for global disaster relief: Europe must act to address the drivers of conflict and disasters - inequality, governance failures and climate change - as well as their immediate impact on the lives of millions.

Read the most recent articles written by Natalia Alonso - EU development policy must put 'people before profits'

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