Catarina Martins (Left Bloc, Portugal): ‘If the EU won’t be able to answer the crisis, the EU will hardly survive’

Catarina Martins, National Coordinator of the Portuguese party Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) proposes the ‘creation of a Recovery Fund of 1.5 billion euros, directly funded by the ECB and makes the case for the building alliances between peripheral economies, such as the Portuguese one, for example around the demand for public debt restructuring.’

Click here to watch the full interview.

Meeting the Left, a series of interviews with leading personalities of the European left hosted by transform! europe, staged yesterday its first interview with Catarina Martins.

Catarina Martins addressed both the Portuguese situation and the European challenges in times of pandemic.

From the sanitary point of view, Portugal managed to effectively "flatten the curve" both due to voluntarily confinement of a big part of the Portuguese people, in a first moment, and due to lockdown measures that were quickly implemented by the authorities. This accounted for a robust and effective response by the NHS, that was only possible because this public service, which in Portugal is universal and almost free, is almost entirely managed by the state – something that was deepened through policies implemented during the past term, and which proved to be instrumental when facing this sanitary crisis and highlights the necessity of solid public services.

Martins also addressed the situation of workers in the pandemic crisis. A very significant number of workers, specially the ones in most precarious job situations (such as those working in the tourism sector) have lost their jobs or are facing lay-off situations (almost half a million of workers). Approximately 1 million Portuguese workers have lost part of their income (in an active population of approximately 5 million people), a situation which is aggravated in the case of informal labour or undocumented workers. There are many situations that are not taken into account in the official numbers, posing a very serious social and economic problem in the wake of the pandemic.

As a way to monitor the situation of precarious workers in times of pandemic, Bloco has launched an online platform for reporting dismissals, labour abuses and the lack of safety and hygiene labour conditions. In just one month complaints concerning 100,000 workers were registered. This platform serves a dual purpose: on the one hand, it monitors the concrete reality of these workers, enabling policy proposals to be drawn up that meet their needs and, on the other hand, creates a network of support and knowledge amongst workers, in a context where trade unions intervention is not strong enough.

The social, political and economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic crisis was also addressed. Catarina Martins explained that, during the times of lockdown, the political debate inside Bloco not only did not halt, but it was further strengthened, collecting the views from party members and experts outside Bloco. This enabled Bloco to draw a programme that answers to the social and economic emergency and that constitutes the basis for the policies that, in the future, will answer the climate challenge, the strengthening of the welfare state and public services, and the struggle for employment and labour rights.

At the EU level, Catarina Martins stated that turning to the European Stability Mechanism is wrong and that the failure of the EU in providing an answer to the crisis reflects the absence of such an answer.

Bloco proposes the creation of a Recovery Fund of 1.5 billion euros, directly funded by the ECB (a proposal also supported by the Spanish state government and other European left forces).

From Bloco’s point of view if the EU won’t be able to answer the crisis, the EU will hardly survive and such an answer must rely in promoting investment capacity of the Member States. In order to do so, the engagement of the European left forces in the construction of alliances and cooperation is not only possible but also desirable, and this must be done on the basis of demanding the revoke of the Treaties that embody the economical governance of the EU.