The Alliances in cooperation with EAPN Portugal held in Lisboa a seminar with as title “for an equal and social Europe” in may 2013.
The outlook for the European countries looks really poor. Almost all countries have to make severe budget cuts. Because of the cuts, the economy in many countries is shrivelled. The consequences are clear. Austerity costs and kills. Even the strictest countries are looking for a lighter sanitation of the budget. But they all stay in line of austerity. Austerity that threatens our social models.
Last February, The European Commission has launched a Communication on the “Social investment Package”. It reads like a complement to the economic governance. Some believe that the social pillar of Europe can develop now. Others think that the Communication is just nothing more than a Communication.
The important element is that the discussion on a social model for Europe can start now.
During the seventh seminar of “Alliances to fight poverty” we continue to examine the needs for a Social Europe. With these findings we will be able to evaluate the Package and suggest alternative paths for a Social Europe.
In the seminar several elements linked to the Package will be discussed. With the evolution of poverty in Europe we can evaluate the current social policy and discuss if the Package can give an answer.
At first, we look at ‘daily life practice’ of social benefits. Social benefits are nowadays used to “discipline” or activate the beneficiaries. The question is of disciplining people gets them out of poverty. In different European member states we find almost the same answers. Our final question is whether social benefits help to have more equality and equity in the member states.
Secondly, we discuss the evolution of social services and social work in the age of austerity. What are the consequences of the tendency of privatization, disinvestment and the influence of the meritocratic culture for the social services and social work? What are the consequences on health care in our European countries?
The seminar will also focus on the fundamentals of Europe: are the treats to our social models provoked by the bases of the single market? Is the dominance of the European single market a treat or an answer? Can we build a European social model in times of crisis? And is the basis for a European social model not a search for more equality between the European states?
Short conclusions of the seminar
1. We have to develop a common answer to the policy of austerity imposed by Europe and chosen by the member states. Its important to stress that the policy of austerity is a choice and that even before the crisis and even without any necessity member states has chosen the policy of austerity to combat the welfare state. The crisis gives Europe and the member states a new window of opportunity to combat their own social model. Draghi has said “the European social model is dead”. And if we don’t do anything he will be right.
2. Developing together an common answer means that we all must invest in the construction of new informal and formal alliances who are working on practical topics and on human and social rights. The exchanges with and within the Alliances about these new constructions is necessary to create a strong voice from out civil society.
3. This means that we must invest in an enriched form of solidarity and a pact about a big redistribution between rich and poor in and between member states. Redistribution must be the core of our new social model.
4. A new pact means that we want to invest in Europe. We don’t want a smaller Europe, but an other Europe. We want a Europe that has real fiscal power to finance the redistribution pact, an Europe that controls and give a clear direction to the financial sector, a Europe that imposes a progressive tax policy and a Europe that develops an industrial policy based on a green economy. These are the crowbars to an other Europe.
5. Europe has to promote and stimulate and invest in the social policy based on the human and social rights. Its important that each country can develop their own social policy, but it is even important that Europe can invest in countries where there is a not well developed social policy and that Europe can raise the standards. The race to the bottom has to be reversed.
6. This means also that we need an better definition of subsidiarity. Nowadays Europe can impose measures to become less social because of the internal market obsession. Housing policy, health policy, social services policy are all under threat by the internal market. More, because of the austerity measures, social policy become privatized and commercialized. A social policy needs social services who are social, cooperated or publically organised.
7. An other Europe is possible if Europe is a fully democratic government where the public and the civil society and the social partners have a real voice. But it’s more. Europe has to invest in the European democratic tradition. Europe must invent new forms of participation in enterprises and firms. Europe must be a guardian of our democratic culture by stimulating this culture.
8. Civil society has an enormous task to push Europe to another economic and social policy.
Program and presentations
A. SOCIAL BENEFITS: AN ANSWER TO POVERTY,
– Social benefits between rights and duties. Ides Nicaise (HIVA, BEL)
– The Precariat: The Struggle against Poverty Traps, Precarity Traps and Workfare. Guy Standing (University of London, UK)
B. EUROPE IN CRISIS
– Overview poverty in the EU in relation to the crisis. Is the current EU social policy the right answer from Europe? Peter Lelie (Expert on Social Protection, BE)
– The gap between a ‘privileged Europe’ and the peripheral member states. Jeremy Leaman (Loughborough University, Euromemogroup, UK)
– An alternative for the single market dominance in the EU. Mahmood Messkoub (University of Rotterdam, Euromemogroup, NL)
C. SOCIAL SERVICES IN TIMES OF AUSTERITY
– Social services and social work in age of austerity: the tendency of privatization, disinvestment and meritocracy. Michael Lavalette (Liverpool Hope University, UK)
D. HEALTH IN TIMES OF AUSTERITY
– Europe and health care. Treats and answers. Rita Baeten (OSE, BE)
E. SOCIAL ANSWERS FOR A EUROPE IN TIMES OF AUSTERITY
– Building an European social model in times of crisis. Robert Salais (Université de Nantes, FR)
– How can we obtain an equal and social Europe? Comments of The Poor can’t pay, CNCA and Contrat Social.