A Plan Of Action For European Politics

Before anything else, what we need today is a paradigm to diagnose and address the numerous and grave global problems that face all of us but which are experienced differently in the various regions of the world. Since the crisis is more evident in Europe and is causing suffering to tens of millions of people, the young especially, we must take it as reality.


The Paradigm: there is no peace without security, especially in these times. But security is not military security, which soaks up 1.6 trillion dollars per year. Security is human security, though the combined government spending on development amounts to a mere USD 50 billion. If just ten percent of military spending went to aid humans, we would have another 160 billion dollars -far more than the UN would require for a climate control accord. A world in which the richest 51 million people have the wealth of the 1.2 billion poorest people is not sustainable.


Today the world suffers from a growing sense of insecurity. Conflicts and terrorism are progressively less present as a factor of insecurity in the collective imagination. Daily life is gradually becoming more disheartening. I believe that it is important to enumerate only the major problems and to prioritize them or else the list becomes endless, even if the paradigm contains them all.


Six serious problems stand out and must be addressed:


1. The world is currently undergoing a profound crisis of governability. The social and economic decline of the countries of the North (simultaneous to the emergence of new global actors in the South) is giving rise to a reckless gambit of parties and movements that dream of a return to bygone eras. The Tea Party, which has captured the US Republican Party, and the right-wing xenophobic parties that have emerged in progressive model countries such as Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and others are also the consequence of this reckless gambit. Add to this the fact that we have witnessed a transition from the end of ideologies to the embrace of pragmatism as the most mature political formula. But without analysis and a clear frame of reference we have moved from pragmatism to utilitarianism, in other words, the scope of political activity has been reduced to only that which is useful.


And today's politics are not producing more ideas, visions, or strategies but instead are becoming self-referential and without any connection to citizens, therefore lacking legitimacy.


Thus the political crisis emerges as the priority. Greater participation in the political process, one that goes beyond simply voting, must be encouraged. We need a participatory democracy in which the discussion of the common good, and not only water and nuclear power, is delegated to the people.


2. A key element in the crisis is the uncontrolled frenzy of finance, which is increasingly unregulated and opposed to the real economy. While trade has dropped by 15 percent worldwide, financial transactions are rising continuously, now amounting to 40 trillion dollars per day. Finance lacks any form of international regulation. The pressure from stock markets is so intense that today the fiscal deficit is seen as more important than the social deficit. As most economists claim, we are engulfed in a crisis that will go beyond this decade. Finance is putting political Europe in crisis and is dramatically increasing the number of people in poverty in the world. The proposals to establish control mechanisms are minimal and plans for recovery are directed at rescuing the banking system. In the meantime, according to the United Nations, the crisis has produced 100 million newly impoverished people.


The first crucial step is this: we must prioritize the social deficit. Savings banks must be prevented from speculating with their clients' money, which would help shrink the speculation bubble. The number of speculation instruments in use, many of which are no more than high-risk lotteries, must be reduced.


3. These two crises have brought the idea of international cooperation to its knees. International social justice and solidarity are now considered marginal. And yet in a globalized world, profits and the market logic cannot be allowed to be our sole guiding principles. The maintenance of ethical standards must be a fundamental part of international relations.


Another necessary step in this regard is reviving the idea of a tax on financial speculation, the volume of which is so colossal that a tax as small as 0,01 percent could generate 400 million euros a day. The revenue could be distributed among the victims of the crisis, the unemployed, the youth, to the social deficit, proportionally to the size of each country. There is no need to create bureaucracy. It is enough to use the current structures, even with their flaws. This would be a new and important measure to merge crisis and solution.


4. One issue that involves all of humanity is the environment. The data on global warming are there for all to see. Yet the American government is held hostage by a congress that denies the reality of the process. Meanwhile a new category of refugees is being created: environmental refugees, which the UN believes could grow to 400 million in 30 years. Those most intensely affected by the process are the poor, the Africans first and foremost, though Europe will be hard hit as well. Wine producers are already buying land in England because southern Europe will suffer from a temperature increase that will challenge its agriculture. The rise in food prices is increasing the number of poor people and will provoke great riots born from rebellion and despair.


And so we call on members of parliament to enact international mechanisms that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and introduce green technologies – issues on which the world (except perhaps China) is lagging behind. We ask citizens to recognise that our current model of development, based on consumerism, is no longer sustainable, which means that unfortunately our lifestyle must be changed.


5. One issue that must never be forgotten is human rights. According to the International Labour Organisation, each year 12.3 million people are captured by criminal groups and forced to work in inhuman conditions. According to the OSCE, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Europe who at the very least work under virtual slavery. The ILO reports a case in an area south of Naples in which 1,200 homeless and undocumented land laborers work 12 hours a day for a ridiculous salary and live in tents controlled by private security guards. So much has been said about the underage Moroccan girl, whose "final user" was Berlusconi: but who talks about the dozens of thousands of women lured with false job promises and then forced into exploitation?


On this issue we are going upstream. We recognize that without an immigration policy based on the immigrant's dignity, Europe's growth is impossible. The same can be said about maintaining social security schemes, since the inter-generational relationship has reduced the birth rate. Merkel consulted a group of five experts so as to get recommendations on how to keep Germany's competitiveness for the next twenty years. One recommendation was increasing the number of immigrants. Today it is fashionable and popular to say the opposite. It is also fashionable to ignore climate change. But as the Romans used to say, facts have long legs. It is our responsibility to know.We need an open debate to create a European immigration policy that goes beyond the commonplaces that European politicians hide behind.


6. One final priority is to restore the dignity of labour. Today labour unions represent only 12 percent of the labour force worldwide, defending their members from an increasingly savage employment environment. Eighty percent of the world's workers have no benefits. Youth unemployment is 30 to 70 percent above average. According to the ILO, the average pension for those aged 20 to 30 today will be 470 euro per month. What kind of society will it be? And what society can their children expect, considering they won't be able to rely on their parents as social-shock absorbers? 


Politicians in the world face this immense social mutation with no sense of urgency or propositions.


And so the concepts of solidarity and intergenerational responsibility need to be revitalised. The economic and fiscal system must be reengineered to shrink the growing gap between those who are inside the system -and often do well- and those who are stranded on the outside. The issue is usually left unaddressed since tackling it implies political suicide. But if nothing is done, we will be drawn into a world of profound misery and destitution.


The present situation demands commitment, sacrifice, and common and individual efforts from all of us. Today there is nothing like a Churchill who, promising blood and tears, managed to mobilise his country against Nazism. Nor is there a Manifesto to galvanise and guide us. However, the facts are clear and unequivocally point to the conclusion that we are unable to avoid what lies ahead. Blaming politicians will not be enough. We are all equally responsible.


Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and Publisher of Other News. 

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