Real change will come from the people

Will the extreme Right use the EU to spread intolerance? Or will we be able to reshape European cooperation into one based on solidarity? To tackle the challenges that lie ahead, the European Union must be reformed we must break up with the European treaties.

From Social Democrats to Conservatives, the political elite in the EU has agreed on an economic policy that increases economic inequality, bails out banks and makes cuts in social welfare spending at the first signs of a crisis. Big business and lobbyists set the agenda while worker’s rights and environmental issues are barely addressed. European Social Democratic parties have increasingly merged with right wing parties to form an elite that considers privatizations and more market as the solutions to all problems. Meanwhile, ordinary people are subjected to economic insecurity and precarity. While the political elite sips champagne on in hotels in Strasbourg and Brussels, economic inequality in Europe is escalating.  It should come, economic inequality in Europe is escalating. It should come as no surprise then that people are losing faith in the system. And too often people turn to the extreme Right for answers.     

The EU elections of 2019 could turn out to be a success for extreme right-wing parties. Unfortunately, this is a sign of our times. These are parties that link racism with misogyny and attacks against the LGBTQ community. They attack academic freedom at universities and want to limit freedom of the press. They claim to defend freedom of speech but in fact constitute the biggest threat to it.  

Fascists are organizing and seeking to seize power in the EU. We are the ones who most resolutely fight against it so that it does not happen. They claim to be the ones challenging the EU elite and its  ordo-liberal politics, but they are in reality the life insurance of the system. Liberals and extreme rights are to the two faces of the same coin.  While they spew hate and racism, we spread solidarity and stand with those suffering the effects of  their politics.

Our movements represents the only alternative in these elections, and we are growing. We want to see broad policies to save the climate. We want to put an end to damaging ordo-liberal politics and build stronger welfare systems. The outcome of the parliamentary elections in May could be a defining moment for the EU, and our message is clear. We are willing to do something that the EU-elite is both unable and unwilling to do: offer real solutions to face the problems caused by  liberal policies built against peoples.

It is no secret that the climate crisis is upon us. How the EU shapes its climate policy the coming years will have global impact. Our movements in Europe have the most consistent climate policies, as it will be impossible to get out from the climatic impasse in which we are without breaking up with the European Treaties . We will not be satisfied with just shifting investment policies. We want to put an end to our dependence on fossil fuels and cut ties with the powerful economic interests making huge profits while also destroying the climate. To us, the climate issue is linked to both equality and democracy. We propose improved train travel, fossil fuel phase-out and green investments. But we want to go even further.

The climate threat differs from other political issues in that time is short. We don’t have the luxury of waiting. Every passing year means more CO2 emissions in the atmosphere that will impact our planet for centuries, maybe millennia. And every year that passes without action further limits our options. According to the UN Climate Change Panel the coming ten years are crucial for humanity. The EU Parliament is elected on a five-year term, which means that the politicians elected in May will lead the EU during half of this ten-year period. 

Right wing extremism and the climate crisis are both linked to the economy and the pro-market elite. The threat of unemployment is spreading economic anxiety and inequality is tearing our societies apart. Those who believe that people will quietly accept increasing social injustice are mistaken.

The logic of capitalism is also fueling the continuous rise in CO2 emissions, even though the effects on the climate are well documented.  The oligarchy let market forces run rampant despite the fact that the market clearly cannot solve the climate crisis. They put profits before planet even though our planet is dying. We have to ask ourselves: what good are politicians who only see us as individuals but refuse to see that we are interdependent? And what good are political parties who are unwilling  to take on the multinational companies that are some of the heaviest polluters? To save the climate we need politicians ready to take on big business and lobbyists. Politicians who believe that change is possible, and who understand that together we can make a difference.    

Europe needs a better and more democratic form of cooperation. The individual member states must be given more power and influence, and the interests of big business must be held in check. We want to take power back from EU-bureaucrats and lobbyists. That’s why the cooperation between  people based forces is important in this election campaign. We will reach out to voters together and talk about our alternative.

We want to use our EU-critical position to challenge the system and create a more democratic, just and sustainable European cooperation. Instead of resignation we want to spread hope and determination. When the Portuguese governments pushes for progressive and humanist reforms instead of following orders from the EU, we stand with them. When member states refuse to accept mass privatizations, we stand with them. When the EU wants to increase military spending, we choose to spend that money on reversing climate change. That’s our message to voters in this election.

We cannot imagine anything more important than saving the climate and turning back the plague of authoritarianism and racism. Make no mistake,  the peoples holds the key of change in Europe.

Jonas Sjöstedt, Vansterpartiet
Manon Aubry, La France insoumise
Miguel Urban, Podemos
Marisa Matias, Bloco de esquedra
Nikolaj Villumsen, Enhedlisten

COP24 – Our planet is not a commodity

However, behind the green varnish, the European Union continues to feed the causes of climate change to the fullest extent. Moreover, when it comes to hypocrisy, Emmanuel Macron is undoubtedly the best. While he is being crowned “champion of the Earth”, France’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen once again.  

The United Nations Climate Conference, COP 24, currently taking place in Katowice, Poland, in early December is supposed to put an end to the ostrich policy on climate change. At the end of 2015, at COP 21, most countries in the world pledged to take the necessary measures to prevent disaster. But the clock is ticking and actions are yet to follow.

As it stands, even if the commitments of COP 21 were met, it would lead us to global warming of 3.2°C. The special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unequivocal: every effort must be made to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and for this reason the time available is extremely limited. In the Katowice Summit, states therefore have the responsibility to increase their commitments to this common effort.

The Earth has already warmed by 1.1°C and the consequences are already being felt. Biodiversity losses are enormous and extreme weather events are becoming more and more frequent, as the recent fires in California and in Europe – particularly in the Southern countries -, have tragically reminded us.

But this is only a glimpse of what awaits us if we fail to act. According to the IPCC, a difference of only half a degree could have enormous consequences on living conditions. Between 1.5°C and 2°C, the loss of natural habitat for vertebrates doubles. Between +1.5°C and +2°C, sea levels will rise by an additional 10 cm, which translates to up to 10 million more people being under water.

However, solutions do exist. But, to implement them, we must break with the dominant framework. In its mad rush, the capitalist system is pushing the boundaries of ecosystem exploitation a little further every day. In the age of unbridled finance, productivism and the pursuit of profit have taken precedence over all other considerations.

Green growth is a chimera. Within the framework of the European Union, any ambitious environmental policy is in conflict with the treaties: the Fiscal Compact prevents states from setting up a major public financing plan for ecological transition. The European architecture allows lobbyists to impose anti-environmental preferences, as glyphosate and the Monsanto Papers have shown. Free trade agreements, like CETA, challenge sustainable local productions.

Building alternatives

In her book ‘This Changes Everything,’ Naomi Klein points out that global warming can be an opportunity. When the system runs into a wall, it’s time to reinvent how it works. This means a new way of producing and consuming.

Right now, ecological experiments are emerging. In Spain, the ayuntamientos del cambio, or « Town Halls of Change », have municipalized energy services in order to ensure supply to the most modest households and produce renewable electricity. At the same time, activists in Ende Gelände are blocking the extraction of coal, the most damaging fuel for the climate.

The fight against climate change is global by nature. Amongst others, President Trump’s climate policies should not be used as a false pretext for not redoubling our own efforts. Moreover, we must not forget Europe’s historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. Europe must guarantee the mechanisms that enable the South to develop in a sustainable and fair way.

In its long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the European Commission plans to reach the climate neutrality by 2050. Not only is this target insufficient – we must aim for zero emission by 2040 – but it is also unreachable with current methods and tools. At the beginning of November, with the support of all major political groups, including the Greens, the EU adopted its renewable energy and energy efficiency targets for 2030, which were 32% and 32.5% respectively. With such low targets, it is clear that their long-term objectives are a pious wish. In addition, the Commission is proposing false solutions, which are as dangerous as they are uncertain, such as nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage. The EU must urgently increase the national contributions to the Green Climate Fund in preparation for the COP. The possibility of purchasing carbon emission credits, sponsored by the EU, and the support to the fossil-gas industry – when we should be getting rid of fossil fuels -, are clear examples of the incoherent European policies in this field. It is the planet given to the markets and profit. But the environment isn’t a commodity, it is our life.

The European Union must break with the « golden rule” of the Fiscal Compact and instead pursue a “green rule,” that no more resources should be taken from nature than it can replenish. There’s no Planet B. Water and energy must be recognized as common goods, natural areas such as forests that naturally store carbon must be protected and peasant and ecological agriculture must be promoted.

Only these profound transformations will make it possible to put an end to the global catastrophe that has begun, while at the same time creating the sustainable and quality jobs that promote technological transition, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, that respond to the social emergency in all of our countries.

Younous Omarjee, La France Insoumise
Xabier Benito, Podemos
Marisa Matias, Bloco de Esquerda
Søren Søndergaard,  Enhedslisten – the Red-Green Alliance
Jens Holm,  Vansterpartiët

Now the People! – Brussels declaration

Europe has never been so rich while at the same time so unequal. 10 years after the onset of the financial crisis, we conclude that European leaders have condemned us to a lost decade. The dogmatic and irrational application of austerity policies did not solve any of the structural problems that led to this crisis. On the contrary, the Union saved the banks and their owners, while the costs and blame were put on the people. People who suffered and continue to suffer under harsh austerity policies afflicting their welfare and labour rights. This policy must be abandoned.

This means we need new European rules, free of the dogma of market liberalisation, rules which put people and the planet first.

It is time to break with the undemocratic European treaties. It is time to build a new order that utterly refutes the logic of imposed austerity and the promotion of social and fiscal dumping. It is time for those who believe in democracy and social justice to step up and break up this downward spiral. Together we will work towards real change for people, against the old unfair order.

Never has there been a greater need for a progressive movement and for international cooperation based on democracy and solidarity. The choice for the people cannot be locked up between the neo-liberal status quo and the far-right. We offer a real alternative:

We will fight social dumping and for secure social rights. Workers’ rights to social protection through laws and collective agreements must take precedence over the free movement of corporations. We oppose that workers are pitted against each other, we want a space for upward social convergence. Therefore, we must break with the European treaties and scrap the European Semester. European cooperation must be based on a social protocol, which puts working conditions as well as social and collective rights well above the free movement of services and capital.

We will demand tax justice and a fair financial system, because the free movement of capital must not be prioritized over the wellbeing of people. Together, we will stand against tax evasion and tax havens, both within and outside the European Union. We will work together to ensure that credit serves general interests rather than special interests. To this end, we will work to ensure public scrutiny and public ownership in the banking sector.

We will fight against climate change and for ecological sustainability. Decreased greenhouse gas emissions have to be a main priority. Therefore, we must break with the Union’s market based approach to climate change. Instead, we need a clear ‘climate’ based approach as well as public investments in clean and safe energies and in green technologies. 

We will stand up for equality and womens rights. The European Union’s attacks on welfare structures and services in many countries are a threat to equality and women’s rights. This must change. We must make equality a central part of all European policies in order for it to be achieved. We defend the right to safe and legal abortions and fight against all forms of gender-based violence.

We demand democratic and sustainable international trade policies and reject free trade agreements. The interests of big corporations’ cannot be allowed to overrule democratic decisions aiming to protect and strengthen social, economic and ecological safety. Therefore investment clauses giving corporations the right to sue states for democratic decisions have to be removed from all of the European Union’s trade agreements.

We defend the right of asylum and oppose Fortress Europe. People are fleeing and migrating because of war, conflict and poverty, oftentimes caused by interventionist and militarist policies in third countries. Europe must be a continent where people seeking refuge are guaranteed rights and safety. We will stand against xenophobic and racist policies wherever they threaten democracy and human dignity.

We work for peace and disarmament. We oppose the militarisation of the European Union. No budgetary funds should go to armament. We want an effective ban on the export of weapons to dictatorships, countries at war and countries that are violating human rights. We will work to stop the neo-colonial external policy of the Union and the depredation of other countries’ resources.

In the spirit of the Declaration signed in Lisbon on the 12th April 2018, we will collaborate and campaign across the European Union on these issues. We are for a fundamental change. We are tired of waiting. We want fair and equal cooperation, one based on democracy and solidarity, that fully respects the sovereignty and interests of the people.

It is time to build a peoples’ Europe! 

Now, the People!

Pernille Skipper, Enhedslisten
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, la France insoumise
Jonas Sjöstedt, Vänsterpartiet
Li Andersson, Vasemmisto
Catarina Martins, Bloco de esquerda
Miguel Urban, Podemos

For a citizen revolution in Europe – Lisbon declaration

Europe has never been as rich as today. It has never been so unequal either. Ten years after the explosion of a financial crisis our people should never have had to pay, we see that the European rulers have condemned our peoples to a lost decade.

The dogmatic, irrational and ineffective application of austerity policies has failed to solve any of the structural problems caused by this crisis. On the contrary, it has generated a wide unnecessary suffering for our peoples. With the pretext of the crisis and its adjustment plans, the rulers have tried to dismantle rights and social protections, which took decades of struggles to be won. They condemned the youngest generations to immigration, unemployment, precariousness and poverty. They hit with particular cruelty the most vulnerable, who are most in need of politics and the state. They tried to get us used to the transformation of every election in a choice between the liberal status quo and the far-right threat.

The time has come to break with the shackles of the European treaties that impose austerity and promote fiscal and social dumping. The time has come for those who believe in democracy to take another step to break up this unacceptable spiral. We must put this unfair, inefficient and unsustainable economic system at the service of life and under citizens democratic control. We need institutions at the service of public liberties and social rights, which are the very material basis of democracy. We need a popular, sovereign, democratic movement that defends the best conquests of our grandmothers and grandfathers, of our fathers and mothers, and bequeaths a just, viable and sustainable social order to future generations.

In this spirit of insubmission to the current state of affairs, democratic revolt, of citizens’ revolt and trust in the democratic capacity of our peoples facing the extinct project of Brussels’ elites, today we are taking in Lisbon a step forward. We call on the peoples of Europe to unite on the task of building an international, popular and democratic political movement to organize the defense of our rights and the sovereignty of our peoples in front of an old, unfair and failed order that is taking us right to the catastrophe.

Those who want the defense of economic democracy, against the big cheaters and the 1% who controls more wealth than all the rest of the planet; of political democracy, against those who revive the flags of hate and xenophobia; of feminist democracy, against a system that discriminates daily and in all areas of life half of the population; of ecologist democracy, against an unsustainable economic system that threatens the very continuity of life on the planet; of international democracy and peace, against those who want to build once again the Europe of war; those who share the defense of human rights and basic principles of well living will find their home in this movement.

We are tired of hoping. We are tired of believing those who govern us from Berlin and from Brussels. We are putting our hands to work to build a new organizational project for Europe. A democratic, fair and equitable organization that respects the sovereignty of peoples. An organization that lives up to our aspirations and needs. A new organization, serving the people.

Catarina Martins, Bloco de esquerda
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, la France insoumise
Pablo Iglesias, Podemos