Austerity, Debt, and Social Destruction in Europe

European Conference on 31 May 2011 in the European Parliament (Brussels) – in Partnership with the GUE/NGL Parliamentary Group

Coordinate our strengths – Democratic alternatives are necessary and possible!

Since September 2010, forces involved in the European Social Forum and In European social mobilisations wished to organise this conference, a year after the European-wide hyper-austerity agreement.
ATTAC (Germany, France, Hungary, Flanders, Spain), CADTM (France, Belgique, Suisse, Greece, Spain, Poland), Transform! Europe, Euromarches, Solidaires (France), FGTB (Belgium), EuroMemo Group, Forum soziales Europa (trade unionist network), Joint Social Conference, TransNational Institut (TNI, Amsterdam), Prague Spring II Network (CEE), Greek social Forum, Austrian Social Forum, Forum social de Belgique, Hungarian social forum network, Espaces Marx (France), Socialismo21 (Spain), Copernic Foundation (France), Mémoire des luttes (France), Patas Arriba, Nicos Poulantzas Institut (Greece), Society for European Dialogue (SPED, Czech Republic), Initiative des femmes en mouvement contre la dette et les plans d’austérité, Transform ! Brussels, World march women, Rood (Flanders), Coalition of Resistance (UK), WIDE (Women In Development Europe), Realpe (European network of progressive local deputies); cgt-fsu-solidaires of  Le Havre on strike; Mesas Ciudadanas de Convergencia y Accion.
Have also participated:  European Association for the Defence of Human Rights/Association Européenne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH); European Feminist Initiative; Ligue des droits de l’homme (France), Fédération syndicale unitaire (FSU, France); trade unionists from different countries.

This conference reflects an emergency

It took place at a time when the Euro crisis, the crisis of the EU, is deepening in the context of a general crisis of financialised capitalism. Europe, whose bases have been destabilised, finds itself in a dead end. With the Euro Pact Plus, a fresh limit has been overstepping the worsening of the social and democratic crisis. Ecological issues can not find solution in this context.

Europe finds itself at the crossroads — its legitimacy is receding

 More than ever before, the only way out of the crisis lies in resistance and struggles to reject the Euro Pact Plus, the new European economic governance, the generalisation of austerity and the pressure of public debts. It lies in changing Europe to make it an area of cooperation and solidarity. We must act together in Europe to counter the divisions, the nationalism and resentment that can only encourage populist and radical Rightwing trends that are growing today even as we must link the European issues to the struggles at national level and everywhere making clear the things we have in common.

The social and political conflict is very tough

Difficulties are continually worsening for wage earners and pensioners, for those in insecure employment, young people migrants and the poorest people, or those being reduced to poverty. Everywhere women are the worst affected. We welcome as most encouraging the movements of “the indignant ones” in many European countries for “a real democracy”.

Convergent demands that mobilise

We have observed that a number of struggles go in the same direction by bearing the demand for a harmonisation of rights towards the high levels and that, in an atmosphere of indignation there are many convergences between social and civic movements, trade unionists as well as social and political activists.

  • The answer to problems raised in Europe as well as to the acute difficulties arising in several counties must be European and united.
  • Economic cooperation at European level must have the objective of answering to peoples needs. The architecture of the Euro, of the institutions, of European Treaties and arrangements must be altered to allow this.
  • The public debts must be reduced: by new revenue; by the lowering of the interest rates that States and local authorities must pay; by the reduction of transfers to the creditors; by measures to cancel the illegitimate parts of debts on the basis of public and citizen audits that would enable the penalisation of speculators and the protection of simple savings and pensioners.
  • New systems of public revenue must be carried set up out in various forms: a fairer and less inegalitarian taxation system; the stopping of fiscal dumping; the taxation of revenue from capital and financial transfers; and the suppression of unacceptable kinds of expenditure, e.g. military ones.
  • Many political measures must contribute to organising a organising a more radical redistribution of wealth and to push back social inequalities and injustices.
  • The financial sectors and banks must be subjected to more restrictive rules, with measures for public and social appropriation of the necessary instruments so as to work in support of a new mode of social and ecological development. There must be an end to the ECB’s restrictive policies.
  • It is essential to reopen the perspective of an upward social convergence so as to stop the downward spiral of social dumping, the dismantling of social protection and retirement systems and the growth of pauperisation.
  • To enable the upward convergence of incomes: the establishment of a European minimum wage based on each country’s average income to counter social and wages dumping and making the social minima proportional the minimum wage. As a matter of immediate urgency, so as to struggle against social exclusion, no income may be lower than the poverty level. Women, the prime victims of low wages, are especially concerned by such a change of direction.
  • To counter the impoverishment of new populations, the concept of social security must broadened to integrate the population as a whole.
  • The most vulnerable populations, crushed by indebtedness and threatened with expulsion from their homes, as is the case in Poland, Hungary and Rumania as well as other European countries, must be assisted and be able to benefit from a right to housing.
  • European subsidies granted to the Eastern countries must in no case strengthen the indebtedness of local authorities: there must be a ban on the property of local councils being based on credits or debentures.
  • European policy regarding migrants must be radically changed and observe their social and human rights and encourage cooperation and solidarity.
  • European public services must be preserved and developed so as to encourage the principle of equality, solidarity and education for all; research projects needed their societies and the emergence of a new mode of social and ecological development. This is a fundamental objective to ensure that social activities remain in the public area and cannot be transferred as unpaid domestic activity by women or underpaid wage groups.
  • Ecological and social issues require, more than ever, public and democratic control of economic decisions: moving on to another kind of economy is needed at local, national and European level.
  • Democracy is in retreat in Europe, it must be defended and become more real as is being demanded by citizens all over Europe.

The mobilisations in Europe must be strengthened and brought closer to favour a radical change of Europe — this is a matter of urgency. This conference expresses its full solidarity with the movements of resistance to austerity, the pressure of the debt, and movements for a genuine democracy.
Several initiatives are already being prepared to enable the advance and broadening of movements of struggle:

  • 19 June: a Day of Action in Spain on the initiative of the “indignant ones” of the Puerta del sol and solidarity initiatives in other countries.
  • 21 June: A European Day of Action called for by the ECTU.
  • 1 October: a conference against austerity and privatisation in London.
  • 15 October an international action launched by the 15 May Movement (Porta del Sol)
  • 1 November: a demonstration against the G20 (near Cannes/Nice, in France) followed by a Peoples’ Forum.

Several paths are still being discussed:

  • Ways of opposing the Euro Pact Plus and the economic governance package by multiplying the initiatives and carrying out campaigns of information and explanation
  • Carrying out public and citizens’ audits on the public debt in various countries followed by a European encounter to finalise the synthesis of the results and draw up common strategies to cancel the illegitimate debts of European States.
  • A variety of actions on 23 and 24 June during the meeting of the European Council on the subject of governance.
  • Reporting back the work of the conference as part of the European Social Forum process within which this initiative was started.
  • Deciding on the creation of an open and mobilising “debt and austerity” network with the aim of drawing up analyses, convergences and initiatives.

Some questions remained open in the discussion, particularly a proposal put forward by the Greek participants: should we try to develop a “common front of trade unions, movements, political forces” whose aims converge? Or the path of a “citizens’ pact” to rebuild Europe.


Verveine Angeli – Elisabeth Gauthier  – Christine Vanden Daelen –