SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 15-04-2016
15 April 2016
Stiglitz in town – the tutor’s tutorial
Josef Stiglitz was in town at the invitation of the German trade union foundation “Hans-Böckler Stiftung” and yesterday gave a speech on the Euro crisis that not only met the expectations of the audience, but was a vigorous call for policy change. Although we frequently hear a call for “no more business as usual” in speeches, most EU policies still revolve around the mantra of competitiveness and growth, the radical remedies of austerity policies and the balanced budgets required by the Maastricht criteria. Stiglitz has authority and notoriety, not only because of the Nobel Prize, but for his longstanding contributions to progressive economic thinking even before the crisis.
“Europe can and must do better”. Yes, because if not – in his understanding – we risk losing a quarter of a century by losing a generation of young, highly qualified people and with them an important source of human capital. For him the EURO was mainly “a political project” which by introducing the common currency took away the adjustment mechanisms needed for facing symmetric and asymmetric shocks in times of crisis. The belief that debts and deficit criteria would ensure convergence has brought, according to him, even more divergence by making poor countries poorer and the rich richer – as confirmed by the annual Employment and Social Development Reports (EDSE). Stiglitz pointed out that the EURO crisis was provoked by the EURO construction itself and the emphasis on structural reforms, not of the EURO construct, but of the Member States. This should be food for thought for all those working on the European semester and developing national reform programmes and country specific recommendations. Without any regret and very factually Stiglitz underlined that the crisis was man-made (in the double sense!) and was the result of wrong decisions, to an extent the result of market excesses in an era of uncontrolled capitalism. We should not be surprised.
For those who have read Stiglitz and have already had the opportunity to listen to him, the discourse was perhaps not entirely new, but the few above mentioned statements and conclusions he drew are guidelines for the definition of an ambitious European project that will not reduce policy making to monetary policies and fiscal consolidation alone, but will also focus on investment, in particular the social investment that we tirelessly call for. Economic thinking does not only appeal to economists, but to all those who see the divisive forces that may lead to the implosion of the European project. Although we do not want it, realism invites us to no longer exclude risk and to anticipate. Stiglitz is not the pope of the modern economy but he delivers an outside (of Europe) view on the mistakes made in Europe and proposes alternatives. It is not a matter of faith or belief, it is about learning from our mistakes, from the past and overcoming the exclusive mantra of competitiveness and sound public finances. Maybe this was a useful tutorial for European decision makers, if they are open to learning and to change! Which they should be, because Europe can and must do better! For its citizens!
Together for Social Europe
European Parliament approved own-initiative report on REFIT
13 April 2016
Yesterday the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted on the own-initiative report by S&D MEP Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann. A big majority of the MEPs approved the report on the REFIT programme by the European Commission to cut red tape and redundant, expendable legislature. Civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions expressed their concerns that the REFIT programme could be used to deregulate or to cut social, labour, environmental or consumer standards and to undermine sustainability.
SOLIDAR welcomes the approval of the own-initiative report by MEP Kaufmann and calls on the Commission to take the report into account and to back away from its deregulatory tendencies.
Labour Mobility and Citizenship Safeguarding Social Standards in Europe
15 April 2016
On Monday 4 April 2016, SOLIDAR and its partner Multicultural Center Prague (MKC Prague) held a conference to present five country reports on labour rights violations from the LABCIT project, putting forward recommendations to overcome potential regulatory failures at the national and EU level (subcontracting, temporary agency work, intermediaries, etc.) and to present SOLIDAR’s vision of high social safeguards. The event aimed to promote fair labour mobility in the EU and to make a case for strengthening “labour citizenship”.
Read here the activity report of the conference.
European Parliament approved the own-initiative report on the need for a holistic approach to migration
15 April 2016
On Tuesday the Kyenge-Metsola report ‘The situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic approach to migration’ was adopted at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. The report, to which SOLIDAR contributed from the beginning by providing inputs based on the experiences of our members, promotes the need to find comprehensive solutions to the so-called migration crisis in the EU based on solidarity and the respect of human rights. SOLIDAR strongly supports some of the main recommendations developed in the report:
- Enhance and fully implement the principle of solidarity as set out in Article 80 TFEU in the EU asylum, immigration and border control policies;
- Strengthen and improve financing for search and rescue operations, with the first objective of saving the lives of those at risk;
- Promote the development of a binding and mandatory legislative approach to resettlement in the European Union, based on solidarity and which takes into account the needs of the resettled person as well;
- The categorising of migrants in the hotspot should be done in the full respect of the human rights of all migrants.
Given its comprehensive approach, the report touches upon many other issues such as anti-smuggling policies, the revision of Dublin III and family reunification. SOLIDAR welcomes the approval of the own-initiative report and calls on MEPs to take this holistic approach into account in the development of other reports currently in the pipeline.
Building Learning Societies
SOLIDAR Foundation Education and Lifelong Learning Watch 2015 – The main findings
13 April 2016
Education and Lifelong Learning Watch (LLL Watch) is a monitoring tool that provides information on different aspects of education, policy trends in the field of education as well as challenges faced at the European and national level regarding lifelong learning. The general report is the result of the 13 different national monitoring reports carried out in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In addition, the LLL Watch report presents SOLIDAR Foundation’s general recommendations to develop learning societies for each of our benchmarks.
Organising International Solidarity
ILO to Egypt: revoke ban on independent trade unions
14 April 2016
Last week, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Director General, Guy Ryder, issued a statement expressing serious concerns about the ongoing violations of freedom of association in Egypt.
In his statement, he urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure the application of the ratified Labour Conventions on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and to immediately revoke the recent ban that prohibits the recognition of independent trade unions, as the ban is in clear violation of the ILO conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (Convention 87) and the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively (Convention 98 ), both ratified by Egypt.
This statement comes following the European Parliament Resolution on Egypt, amidst a climate of a severe crack down on civil society organisations, human rights activists and independent trade unions. In the light of the lack of proper labour representation in the current parliament, the Egyptian authorities have recently filed lawsuits attempting to dissolve independent trade unions, and have appointed Mohamed Saafan – former Vice President of the (then state-controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) – as the new Minister of Manpower during a cabinet reshuffle at the end of March. This appointment will have major repercussions on the adoption of the new labour law and the contested civil service law.
How to mainstream social protection in the European Development Fund’s (EDF) National Indicative Programmes (NIPs). Civil Society in Kenya tells us how
14 April 2016
How EU programmes could help achieve social protection and decent work.
Our Members and Partners in Kenya tell us how
- There should a stronger focus on increasing opportunities in the labour market and providing appropriate skills training, especially for young people who occupy a large proportion of the unemployed.
- The EU should strengthen its engagement and structured dialogue with in-country civil society organisations. A space for civil society to work with the EU should be developed ensuring that all voices are heard, particularly those at the grassroots, thus avoiding elite capture.
- The EU should work with civil society organisations to ensure citizens are informed about their right to social protection as well as about existing programmes, and to increase demand for accountability from decision-makers and service providers.
- Support should be given to the further development of the financing plan for social protection and ensure that concrete steps are taken to ensure adequate funding. A potential source of revenue could be taxation, particularly of the extractive industries.