Change of direction in EU economic policy needed
Reacting to the outcomes of the European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday, leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, said that the new four-party coalition in the European Parliament needs to demonstrate a real change of direction from the past ten years of European economic policy.
Brendan said: “The failure of European leaders to agree a new President of the Commission was not surprising, but it underlines the challenge of ensuring that the new four-party coalition is workable. This requires a commitment to a change of direction in European economic policy.
“Support for far-right and populist parties across Europe is not just based on identity but also has an economic dimension. These parties have had particular success in areas where more people feel left behind by the economy or where people are struggling to meet the cost of living. European economic policy needs to refocus on meeting people’s basic needs to stem populism.
“Frans Timmermans, the Socialist and Democrats’ lead candidate for the role of President of the Commission, is still the best placed candidate to lead this change of direction.
“Europe has four major economic challenges, all of which need to substantial progress in the next five years.
“Europe needs to fully embrace the challenging but ultimately cost-saving pathway of pledging carbon neutrality by 2050. Most member states agree, and further compensations should be created for Polish coal miners and other groups of workers who will be specifically affected, just as Irish peat workers need a Just Transition to new, high quality jobs.
“Europe needs to reverse the growth of inequality, by increasing workers’ share of national income and investing to strengthen universal basic services such as healthcare, childcare, public housing and public transport. Not every worker can be high paid, but public services can ensure everyone has a decent standard of living, which will lessen the attraction of far-right and populist political movements.
“Europe needs to ensure it remains competitive in the global economy, without lowering social and environmental standards. This requires a continued emphasis on education, training, lifelong learning, and adoption of new technology, in order to create higher value jobs to replace lower value work.
“Europe needs to integrate migrant workers into the mainstream economy, including those with lower educational attainment or skills, and avoid creating ghettoised sectors of the economy, which in turn manifest as second-class social status and lower living standards.
“Following the Brexit debacle, public opinion has grown more positive towards the European Union, but this public trust must now be rewarded by a real change of direction of economic policy to meet people’s basic needs, now and into the future. ”