We are experiencing the biggest crisis in peacetime in the last 90 years; if the European Central Bank's estimates of the size of the 15% of GDP depression turn out to be correct, this is three times the magnitude of the last crisis in 2008. The European Union has never faced such an economic and social crisis of this scale. This crisis is of a different nature than previous ones, and it requires a different mix and timing of policy responses. That is why we believe that business as usual can no longer be a political option to address the effects of the crisis. Europe has the possibility and the opportunity to build another world.
Europe must finance activities that meet two criteria: the reshoring of priority jobs to make Europe independent, particularly as regards health protection and response, and put the focus on sustainable investments that are socially responsible and environment friendly. The pandemic has shown us that global emergencies can fast-forward processes that otherwise might take years, even decades, to play out or reverse achievements which have taken years to accomplish. We have an opportunity to ensure both short-term and long-term resilience and preparedness for future challenges and disruptions.
The European Union must be able to elaborate an effective Recovery and Reconstruction Plan to help those Member States that are in great difficulty and to strengthen the euro zone. Europe must show solidarity if it does not want to disappear: it is important not to repeat the dramatic scenario of 2012-2013 with the Greek debt crisis, following the lack of agreement between Member States.
The measures implemented by the EU so far by suspending the regulations on the Stability and Growth Pact, the State Aid but also on the European Stability Mechanism have allowed Member States to take actions to support the economic and health systems. However, we believe that the Recovery Plan under discussion at European Council level must be based on four principles:
Solidarity is the first of these. We learned from the most prosperous species in nature that solidarity and cooperation is the source of prosperity and well-being and not competition! The unilateral measures taken by the Member States to trigger the crisis, pushed by conservation instinct, have almost blocked the transport of essential goods at European level. The intervention of the European Commission and the establishment of green transport corridors were needed to unblock the situation. This is a good example that proves that giving up solidarity can endanger the very existence of the EU!
The Sustainability of the economy and society is the second principle. We must transform the economic system and society in such a way that prosperity is generated without destroying the only place in the universe we know where we can live. The recovery must not be based on the idea of returning to the pre-crisis state of affairs but on the profound and lasting reform of the economic system.
Safeguarding employment and income for all workers is a priority and we need to shape today’s policies with a long-term perspective. The EU needs a strong European social recovery and reconstruction strategy at EU and national levels with active involvement of social partners, safeguarding workers’ rights to invigorate the economy again and ensuring well-being for all.
The Participation of all citizens, individually or through the organizations of the social partners and of the civil society, will make this process of reforming the economy and society possible. Therefore, member states and the EU must ensure that in this complex process no one is left behind, in particular:
The most precarious workers, people of pre-retirement age, women working in low-valued positions and young people, especially those belonging to visible minorities and those with a migrant background.
The stronger the recovery measures are and the more they are tailored to the situation of the Member States and their populations, the more credible Europe will be and the more capable to rise to the unprecedented challenges we face in this crisis. It is therefore a matter of social justice and solidarity, but it is also a bulwark against authoritarian drifts that inequalities and social divides may encourage in EU countries once the health emergency has been tamed.
The Workers' Group recommendations outline elements for a strong, social, sustainable and inclusive Recovery and Reconstruction Plan to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic and its social and economic consequences.