By the Workers' Group
Germany has taken over the presidency of the EU Council at a crucial moment for Europe, with our union standing at a crossroads. We are facing the most brutal crisis experienced in peacetime in the last 90 years, with more than a hundred thousand deaths in Europe alone and massive economic shocks, not to mention the uncertainty of more waves of the pandemic to come. During the tough months of lockdown, healthcare workers, but also people working in deliveries, supermarkets and sanitation - jobs that are often precarious and underpaid - have borne the brunt of the effort to keep our countries running.
'Together for Europe' is a motto we can all rally behind, but its principles of sustainability, fairness, security, common values and innovation must be pushed forward. Concrete initiatives under the European Pillar of Social Rights - such as a European Minimum Wage, the implementation of equal pay for equal work, the posting of workers and transparent working conditions - are more necessary than ever.
Instead of the austerity measures of the last crisis, which led us into a downward spiral of debt and stagnation and starved our healthcare system of resources (the price of which we now are paying for in lives), Europe needs to provide robust, common measures for a recovery and reconstruction plan, both in the short and long term. We are facing a 15% GDP depression, and business as usual is no longer an option. As the crisis deepens, the Member States are not evenly equipped to deal with it, and a lack of a coordinated European response may lead to social and economic collapse, jeopardising the very existence of the EU.
The size of the task ahead for the German presidency is gargantuan, but so too are the risks of failure if the recovery plans keep being stalled in the Council, rendered useless by national vetoes on every last euro or turned into the Troika-like 'rescues' that damaged the EU a decade ago, leaving it in the unprepared state in which it finds itself now. As the president of the Workers' Group said: "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 of rising 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 any drifts towards authoritarianism that inequalities and social divides may encourage in EU countries once the health emergency has been tamed".