“We all have a great responsibility now to ensure the wellbeing and coexistence of the whole European continent.” Pope Francis’ appeal must now shake governments and the entire ruling class to make us rediscover a Europe that belongs to people and is based on work and social welfare. Europe has been the aspiration and ambition of so many countries, which have pushed to enter it in recent years. Today, unfortunately, happens the opposite. Having remained for 10 years – after the rejection of the Constitutional Referendum in 2005 in France and the Netherlands – in the mid-stream of national selfishness and a recessive economic and fiscal policy, has worsened even further the devastating social impact of the crisis, despite ECB’s constant attempt at mitigation through its expansive monetary policy.
European policy has plainly failed to answer the fundamental and vital questions of its peoples, offering nationalist and populist movements, anti-European and anti-euro, an optimal cultural environment for the growth of general consensus. Today, we see the negative consequences of the fiscal compact and of the bad choices of our governments: we have a Europe that is struggling to grow, has lost millions of jobs, thus increasing social inequality, which is not competitive on world markets. Besides, it is unable to be a force for peace and stability in the world. It is a very selfish and closed Europe, which does not show solidarity: just look at how many problems and how much anxiety were triggered by the need to accommodate a few hundred thousands of refugees. The truth is that the Europe of austerity, which does not invest nor innovate, has generated mistrust and pushed its citizens away. It is a pattern we need to change. That is why we need to accelerate in order to recover the spirit of the first treaties, with few, but effective measures we hope the founding countries will decide to take.
Next to the single currency, we need a single European Finance Ministry, equipped with the tools to carry out a European economic policy, showing solidarity in debt management and creating bonds to ensure resources for the real economy. The CISL Syndicate has long proposed to mutualize part of the public debt of the single countries, issuing Eurobonds signed by citizens and institutional investors. Among other things, this would bring down dramatically the cost of refinancing of the sovereign debt. Each state, however, must give guarantees, such as the gold reserves of their central banks and the shares of the various public asset. At the same time, project bonds might be issued, i.e., bonds that generate more resources to support real economy. Today, the lack of these tools is somehow mitigated by BCE’s quantitative easing, which nearly had to replace politics, unable to make important choices.
Instead, we must aim to build a political Europe, with those who are around us, with those who accept the challenge and carry on these ideas, starting with the founding countries. Only if we manage to conquer a common economic Europe, we will unify the welfare systems, labor law, bargaining, and tax systems. Solidarity is a choice we can make today and this is what we expect from the summit of European countries.
As to the risk of political emulation by other countries, we must answer it ingeniously, with a real breakthrough in the rewriting of the “European economic constitution” with a more open and forward-looking Germany compared to the last few years. Italy, which was one of Europe’s founding countries, must play a stronger political role in this difficult phase. The dramatic collapse of the bonds of credit corporations and the growing spreads, as well as the growing cost required to refinance the public debt, would lead to a reduction of the number of loans to households and businesses, sending recessionary impulses to economy.
The resurgence of nationalism, national currencies, protectionism, obstacles for trade, and currency wars would nullify the battles for social justice and democracy, which have marked the history of the labor movement.
Therefore, the still possible effort to save the prospect of the United States of Europe is undoubtedly a social, cultural, and civilization battle. All of the European trade unions must now mobilize and contribute to it with ideas, passion, and commitment we will be capable of.