Austerity for the many; impunity for the wealthy and powerful that caused the crisis. Escalating public debt; massive bank bailouts. Centralised decision-making in Brussels; national democracies undermined. Trade union rights abandoned; unabashed corporate influence growing.
These are just some of the impacts witnessed in recent times since the financial bubble burst and Europe became embroiled in the severest economic crisis in human memory. Fine words by politicians in 2008 about the need to clean up ‘casino capitalism’ and that the ‘banks will pay’ are now a distant memory as youth unemployment across Europe soars and the people of Greece experience shocking levels of poverty and destitution.
Meanwhile, the power, access and influence of corporations – and their lobbyists – grows to unprecedented levels. The Institute of International Finance (IIF), a lobby group established by the biggest banks became the EU’s interlocutor on the Greek debt issue. In fact the media reported that the IIF’s then president, Josef Ackermann of Deutsche Bank was actually present at the European Council’s July Summit. Meanwhile the Austerity Treaty and the avalanche of laws on economic policies already adopted neatly reflect the demands of the biggest corporate lobby group of all, BusinessEurope. The corporate capture of EU decision-making – or corporate EUtopia – looks set to continue.
In the face of such challenges, it is easy to become despondent. Yet in 2011 the Indignados followed by the Occupy movement plus wave after wave of strike action gave many hope that another Europe was possible. They reminded us that we are not powerless and that we do not lack supporters, nor organisational ability, nor concrete ideas of what progressive alternatives to the dominant neoliberal ideology would look like.
But as decision-makers in Brussels become more and more heavy-handed in imposing privatisation and public service cuts across the EU, and the Austerity Treaty threatens to lock-in this model for generations to come, the need for pan-European and EU-level analysis, resistance, and alternatives has never been stronger.
That’s why, in its 15th birthday year, Corporate Europe Observatory, together with the Transnational Institute and the European Federation of Public Services Unions are jointly hosting ‘EU in Crisis’ – two days of debate to discuss democratic alternatives, strengthen networking, and develop concrete plans for action.
With speakers from the north, south, east and west of Europe, from trade unions, from social movements and from academia, the event will bring together key voices to share and strategise. Action planning sessions will focus on reining in the financial markets; resisting social regression; a social and ecological way out of the crisis; economic governance and corporate rule; eurozone, debt and solidarity; resistance and alternatives to EU-driven privatisation; and countering the corporate lobby. All will focus on national-level and EU-level action.
Join CEO, TNI, EPSU and many others on 5-6 May 2012 in Brussels. Find out more and register online at: www.corporateeurope.org/EU-in-crisis-conf. Speakers will include: Susan George, Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, Leigh Phillips, Esther Vivas, Mariana Mortágua, Alexis Passadakis, Miren Etxezarreta, Jakub Patočka, Andy Storey, Trevor Evans
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