By Hannes Swoboda - 18th January 2013
We want to see major changes in the architecture of the monetary union, to restore the stability of the eurozone
Hannes Swoboda is calling on the citizens of Europe to fight for an alternative vision of the EU that can lift the continent out of its economic, political and social slump.
This will be a difficult 12 months and it must not become another lost year, like 2012, for the many millions who became unemployed or slid into poverty. Europe is facing a threefold crisis, economic, political and social, and we must take action now. Our group stands for social justice and fairness and an alternative vision for Europe. We stand for an end to the reckless austerity imposed by conservative governments and a right-dominated European commission. And it is not only the S&D group, but also the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and renowned university professors who are calling for a change of direction.
Our strategy is focused on growth, investment and jobs. As shown in the recent commission report on “employment and social developments”, poverty and unemployment are growing dramatically and today we have an unemployment rate of 11 per cent in Europe. In the last year, three million more people have lost their jobs. The reduction of youth unemployment is our most urgent challenge, with one in five young people unemployed in Europe – and over 50 per cent in some countries. The introduction of a youth guarantee – which the commission, following a long campaign by our group, has finally proposed, is a good start. But this must be implemented robustly, with sufficient funding from the European social fund. We want to see major changes in the architecture of the monetary union, to restore the stability of the eurozone. We welcome a strengthening of economic integration, but this must be guided by the needs of Europe’s citizens, not focused on abstract institutional quarrels.
This is the last full year before the European elections. It is time to complete our work on the stronger regulation of financial markets. Europe needs to see a banking union completed and fully operational this year to help countries in economic difficulties, to ensure the stability of the banking system across Europe and to avoid taxpayers bearing the cost of future bank failures. We need stricter rules for credit rating agencies and the establishment of an independent credit rating agency in Europe. Finally, we call for progress on the capital requirements directive. Strong action is needed against tax evasion and tax havens. This could bring savings of up to €1 trillion to help restore public finances, in place of savage cuts in public spending. Of course, the negotiations on the EU budget and the multiannual financial framework must be completed. We defend a strong EU budget to help countries invest in growth, innovation, education and jobs. This topic will also be on the Irish presidency agenda – we will look for further progress at the February EU council.
Finally, we call for a new sustainable industrial policy, focused on the creation of green jobs. We call on the Irish presidency to come forward with proposals for a reindustrialisation of Europe. However, social justice and fairness are fundamental human values for us, which must be defended and promoted across all areas of public life. In place of a Europe plagued by hatred and growing xenophobia, we stand for an open and inclusive Europe. That is why we have launched the EuropePlus initiative, which aims to ensure fair access to citizenship and rights for everyone in Europe, regardless of their nationality or origin, particularly for a new generation of children and young people born, raised, living and studying in the EU. We welcome that the commission has finally recognised the need to make people the focus of their attention by promoting 2013 as the European year of citizens. The creation of European citizenship in 1993 has been a huge symbolic step for the definition of the EU, not only as a single market, but as a community of persons with rights and values. But we believe that today, EU citizenship, particularly the freedom to move, reside, study, and work freely inside the territory of the EU still lacks fundamental prerequisites in order to be enjoyed by all. We also believe that the concept of EU citizenship must be widened and that citizenship rights should be gradually extended to the many long-term third-country-national residents in Europe and, above all, to children and youngsters born and raised in the EU, a precious part of a new diverse eurogeneration.
Finally, I would like to end with a word about our re-launching Europe initiative. Through this initiative, we want to start a debate with Europeans and to listen to their views on how to get Europe out of the crisis - and on the kind of Europe they want for themselves and their families. In a series of events, in towns and cities across Europe, we are bringing together young people, politicians, academics, citizens and experts to talk about a new vision of Europe. We have already been in Belgium, Germany and the UK and we will now go to Italy for our next event in Trieste on 30 January.
Hannes Swoboda is chair of parliament's S&D group.