The European parliament in Brussels hosted a rather unusual meeting on 8-9 February. Convened by GUE and REALPE (European network of progressive local authorities and councillors), over a hundred progressive local councillors and MEPs from 15 EU countries came together to exchange on the consequences of austerity policies on local authorities and figure out what
The European parliament in Brussels hosted a rather unusual meeting on 8-9 February. Convened by GUE and REALPE (European network of progressive local authorities and councillors), over a hundred progressive local councillors and MEPs from 15 EU countries came together to exchange on the consequences of austerity policies on local authorities and figure out what is to be done together against these.
Speakers from this diversity of countries have common assessments – the situation has severely deteriorated over the last few months and poverty has dramatically risen in most countries. Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain are particularly hit. MEP Nikos Chountis (Greece) revealed how children in his country can have no more breakfast in the morning before going to school. While municipalities have no resources left, they still have to organize morning meals for these children! In many countries, local authorities have gone bankrupt and can no longer meet people’s growing needs. Public services are completely dismantled. Wage reductions come after pensions and jobs downsizing. And governments tend to increase the number of taxes on wage-earners.
Participants agreed that this situation has not occurred incidentally but is the result of a deliberate neo-liberal rationale which denies the innovative and short-distance role of local authorities. Neo-liberal policies do not care for democratic processes, quite the contrary. As municipalities and mayors in particular remain the closest references for citizens, they have to be done away with and given to private stakeholders. When they lack essential resources to deliver water and energy, they are tempted to appeal to private companies to supply these services.
This so far unknown period begets anger, discontent, with growing social movements in most countries. In Romania, the Prime minister has had to resign. In Greece and Portugal, general strikes develop on a regular basis. Progressive local councillors are very active in these protest actions. What came out of the Brussels meeting was a strong expectation for common action. What is to be done in such a critical situation to change this? How can REALPE help circulate information, best local practices and list up “toxic” companies?
This meeting therefore ended up with concrete proposals.
The 100 participants decided to support the European day of action on 29 February initiated by the European confederation of trade unions. After the general concern expressed over the growing privatization trend of water supply, European councillors and parliamentarians decided to take an active part in the upcoming Alternative World Water Forum in Marseilles (France) on 13-18 March. As suggested by former MEP Francis Wurtz, we will all be present at the Brussels meeting on 30-31 March to prepare for the European Alternative Social Summit, as convened by the European Left Party. REALPE announced it was about to launch a website (www.realpe-europa.eu/) to bring together all local authorities actions in Europe and help for progressive mobilization.