Restart – Europe Now is a Germany-based initiative and website, proposing solutions against austerity for the strengthening of democratic and social structures and further development of Europe. Participants to this initiative come from political parties (SPD-Social democrats, Die Linke left-wing party and the Greens), trade unions, churches and organised civil society, as well as from the business and academic spheres.
They consider a thrust reversal as an absolutely necessary step to fight the failed austerity policies, in order to reach a sustainable economic balance among the Member States. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to re-build a European Union based upon the principles of shared prosperity, solidarity, wealth and peace. Germany enjoys a great deal of respect in the EU and its voice has power, however it is not only Germany that shapes the EU’s destiny. Within Germany itself there are trends in favor of another, more solidary Union, where the voice of the Southern countries will also be heard. Along with the left parties that are growing in the South, the purpose of Restart – Europe is to pool strengths across Europe in order for a brand new integrating policy to be developed:
“…Austerity policy, which is being presented as without alternative due to pressure from Germany and has been undermining the EU’s democratic legitimacy for years, is also boosting centrifugal forces with the potential to first weaken and then destroy Europe. This quite obviously reduces the attractiveness of the European idea amongst young Europeans, who are particularly severely affected by unemployment and lack of perspectives…”
Restart – Europe Now supporters include SPD politician and Professor Gesine Schwan, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung Director Gustav Horn, Professor for International Economics Sebastian Dullien, President of DGB – German Trade Union Confederation Reiner Hoffmann, Editor-in-Chief of “Social Europe” Henning Meyer, Chairwoman of the Young Socialists in the SPD (Jusos) Johanna Uekermann, and Vice Chairman of Die Linke party Axel Troost.
As far as Greece is concerned, in a recent article (“Greece: Schäuble got crazy”) Axel Troost says very clearly : “[…] the country’s as well as Europe’s destiny depends on Germany, and Schauble has taken a whole country as hostage. With this kind of CDU it is hardly possible that a new solidary Europe will be re-built and Greece needs our support today more than ever”.
A strategy for more investment, more growth and more employment in Europe
In their recent article (Eine Strategie für mehr Investitionen, mehr Wachstum und Beschäftigung in Europa / A strategy for more investment, more growth and more employment in Europe, 23.5.2017), Peter Bofinger, Franziska Brantner, Sebastian Dullien, Gustav Horn, Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, Lisa Paus, Angelica Schwall-Düren, Gesine Schwan, Axel Troost und Harald Wolf focus on austerity and its failure suggesting a new European Investment Program to create jobs and strengthen European cohesion.
The concept, of German origin, that only through austerity (cuts and reforms) growth and full employment could be achieved has proven to be a failed policy, politically as well as economically. It is thanks to the European Central Bank andits low interest rate policy that the Member States have been protected from the pressure of the Markets and have obtained more room for economic manoeuvre. The only Member State not to enjoy a financial breathing space was Greece. The recovery of its economy has proven to be very weak. With the election of Macron in France there’s a chance for Europe to regain its competitiveness and achieve full employment. But Europe’s euro crisis doesn’t have to be resolved at national level but ata supranational one. A proposal to this objective could be a European Investment Program, a reorientation of the Juncker Plan along with its prolongation and a joint annual funding of 30 billion euros. It could also be reasonable to grant loans to a limited extent through Eurobonds. This kind of lending, at stable interest, could be useful for the weakest countries. But investment is not an end in itself. One the one hand it supports the sustainability, the socialwelfare and the infrastructure and thus creating jobs. But on the other hand, more growth and less unemployment especially in countries like Greece and Spain as well as in France is the prerequisite for the European citizen perceiving the common currency as the motor of “prosperity for all” and of political stability.
The key points of the investment program should be (a) Supporting sustainable development especially by boosting investment in renewable energies, (b) creating jobs, (c) strengthening the European cohesion, (d) overcoming the economic divide/divergence within Europe and among Member States, (e) improving significantly, tangibly and relatively fast the living conditions of the European citizens.
These objectives could be achieved by investing in the fields of education, housing construction, urban transports, environmental protection, health, culture and public security. This investment plan will enable a stronger identification of the European citizen with Europe and with the decision making process (Multi-Stakeholder-
Financing the Investment Program through a European Independent Budget
It must be made clear enough that a monetary Union with different national economic performances, will survive in the long run only if balancing mechanisms are established, and this will be to the benefit of all Europeans. Sigmar Gabriel had rightly claimed in a discussion with Habermas and Macron in 16 March 2017 that the main beneficiary of theeuro is Germany. But only with a budget of its own will the EU be in accordance to the very logic of the single currency area.
Juncker Plan should be modified in a way that guarantees investment in countries suffering a sluggish growth and where the premium risk is particularly high. Priority should be given to sectors with lower economic but higher social profit/ social yields. ( investment should be driven to sectors like energy saving, energy nets, small or medium-sized businesses or to the innovation field where high levels of leverage are expected). But in order to apply this renewed Juncker Plan, it is important that the European Parliament and the Member States achieve a consensus according to which the greatest part of the Juncker Plan will be oriented in priority to those countries facing under-investment.
Mobilization for integration and development at local level
Due to the migrant crisis local communities in Europe are in totally different state. Therefore, integration of migrants into the labor market, into the education system and into the founding of enterprises is to be boosted. Out of the German experience after the World War II, entrepreneurship for migrants and their economic success has proven to be an important condition for their integration.
A fixed-term investment boost through loans granted to the EU Commission – More room for national course of action
The EU could take up loans in order to facilitate investments beyond the national budget or the national debt. Within the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact, Member States could be given more time (5 years) and the chance to spend on public investment half a percent of their annual budgets. The main goal of the investment Program is to bridge theeconomic gap between central Europe and its periphery. That is why 75% of the resources should be diverted to weaker countries and 25% should be invested to the rest.
A.P. & N.N.