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Europe and the Left

On the 9th of May the “Conference on the Future of Europe” was opened with a joint declaration by the European Parliament, the Council and the European commission. According to this declaration the Conference should serve as platform for the thoughts, ideas and proposals of European citizens concerning the challenges such as climate change, digitalization, migration, equality, health and so on. And it is promised that the recommendations will be respected. But there is still a risk, that this conference becomes another missed opportunity remaining a merely decorative promise unless there is really a participatory and democratic process providing citizens participation and the involvement of social movements, trade unions and political parties. 

For the European Left this conference is an opportunity to present their vision on the future of Europe. We have drawn up a document in which we present our key points. Starting point is the observation, that Europe is still in a deep economic, social and political crisis, which the pandemic is exacerbating. In the pandemic it became evident that the predominant neoliberal policy is not able to address the crisis in a proper way and that we need a fundamental change in European politics. First of all, the pandemic has to be combatted. Therefore, the European Left supports strongly the European Citizens Initiative “Right2Cure” for free access to vaccines and for making the vaccine a common good. We have also to combat the dramatic economic and social effects of the pandemic by setting up in particular a rescue plan for workers and their families. 

Even the European Commission and the European Governments suspended some essential elements of the neoliberal austerity policy such as the Stability and Growth pact and set up a recovery fund endowed with 750 billion euros.  This could be a starting point for a real economic recovery facing also the ecological challenges such as the climate change. A key element for us is the social-ecological transformation or a left Green New Deal. We need a green revolution of industry combining ecological and social needs. A left Green New Deal has to go hand in hand with the expansion of workers’ rights. The recent Social Summit organized by the Unions with the request of a binding social protocol is a point of reference.

It is impossible to speak of a concrete European commitment to Europe’s social dimension unless all social protection systems, including pensions and wages, are calibrated to the highest standards. 

The pandemic demonstrated the failure of neoliberal politics. The era of austerity policies is coming to an end. The European Left should present itself as the protagonist for a radical change of European policy. Such a different policy orientated on the interest of the people can’t be based on the existing Treaties. The Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties do not provide a basis for a social, democratic, ecological and peaceful Europe. They have to be changed. It is the task of the Left to pave the way to it.

For doing this a strong European Left is needed. Unfortunately, the Left is not in a good shape. The Left is facing difficult times. 

In the Nordic countries the left parties are relatively stable. In some countries like in France the Left is fragmented or divided. In Italy the Left is terribly weak. Also in Germany the Left is losing ground still being an important political force. But there are also some parties like the Ptb in Belgium or the Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal which are increasing. And we shouldn’t forget that Syriza in Greece despite some losses is together with Akel in Cyprus still the biggest left party in Europe. 

In order to get out of this situation and to get stronger again, it is necessary that the Left has a clear political strategy and overcomes its divisions. The conference on the future of Europe is a good opportunity to intensify such a strategic debate. The Party of the European Left is committed to this debate. We are also committed to stronger cooperation between the left and progressive political forces, for which the debate on the future of Europe could also be helpful. In this context I’d like to refer to the annual European Forum which we together with other progressive and ecological forces are organizing and which is also a platform for discussion and cooperation.

As already said and in our document for the conference on the future of Europe outlined the key elements of a left perspective are a policy of protecting the people, strengthening social rights, defending democracy and social-ecological transformation. Another focus is peace and disarmament to which the European Left is strongly committed. We are facing an alarming situation with the risk of a new cold war. The recent Nato summit in Brussels was focused on China which is seen as systemic rival. Nato presented itself as part of the geopolitical strategy of the United States striving for supremacy in the world. The European left supported the Anti-Nato summit organized by the international network “No to war – No to Nato” condemning its dangerous expansion plans. We are strictly against a militarization of the European Union. Commitment for peace and disarmament and commitment for a left Green New Deal are strongly linked. Fighting militarization also means fighting the climate crisis because war and military exercises are the greatest damage to the environment. 

With this edition of Quistioni we want to contribute to a broad debate about the future development of Europe. It is also a contribution to developing a comprehensive political strategy for the Left in Europe. 

Heinz Bierbaum is President of the Party of the European Left. He is a sociologist and economist.