Nine Burning Issues Merkel must tackle during EU Corona Presidency
Text drafted by Eoghan Finn and Adam Pakulski for GUE/NGL (European United Left-Nordic Green Left)
With Germany assuming the EU Presidency this month, Left MEPs are in no doubt just how important the next six months will be – not just for the EU, but for the future and the survival of the EU. Why?
GUE/NGL’s Eoghan Finn and Adam Pakulski have put together this list of 9 critical, burning issues that Chancellor Angela Merkel must deal with during this ‘Corona-presidency’. There’s no time to waste!
1. Putting Health First
We need a “whatever it takes” approach to save lives and strengthen public health services. European health planning and investment are needed to undo neo-liberal cutbacks and privatisation that the European Commission demanded of member states no fewer than 63 times between 2011 and 2018! Germany recently enabled its government to take control of drugs and vaccine production from private companies and should now stand up to big pharma at EU level and guarantee a "Right to a Cure".
2. Economic Solidarity
Germany benefited most from the Euro – to the tune of €1.9 billion between 1999 and 2017. It should use this Presidency to give back, push for grants – NOT LOANS – and reform ECB statutes to enable direct financing of member states. Otherwise debt will spiral and cause another crisis and crippling austerity in the hardest hit countries like Spain and Italy. The Stability and Growth Pact must be abolished to enable recovery, cohesion, and tax justice – not militarisation – to take priority in the Multi-annual Financial Framework.
3. Ambitious Climate Action
The German government’s "green image" - contrasts with its advocacy for the gas industry and light-touch environmental regulation. This Presidency requires ambitious policies to bring Europe in line with the Paris Accords: reduce CO2 emissions by 70%; implement a fossil fuel exit strategy; expand and make European rail affordable as part of a transport transition away from aviation; provide sufficient 'Just Transition' funds for Europe’s 240,000 coal industry workers. Carbon neutrality by 2040 requires a European plan to phase out nuclear energy. The 'Green New Deal' needs to be at the core of reconstruction!
4. Poverty & Workers’ Rights
One in five Europeans live in poverty, yet necessary measures like a 'European Minimum Wage' are being shelved. Legal provision should be made to secure social rights and workers’ rights by means of a social protocol in the Treaties, and accession to the revised European Social Charter. To deal with this crisis, workers need wage subsidies and extended paid leave to care for family members, and the option of telework alongside the right to disconnect. To protect jobs, financial aid to private companies should be conditional on zero dismissals.
5. Open the Black Box!
The new "Tainted Love report" on corporate lobbying and the German presidency exposes how the car, gas, finance, Big Data, chemical, and fishing industries - are too close to the German government, whose ministers promote their interests in EU Council negotiations with other member states. As private companies demand deregulation and billions in bailouts to deal with the crisis, we need transparency now more than ever. Germany should end the privileged access of lobbyists to the ‘Black Box’ that is the Council.
6. Democracy & Rule of Law
Democracy in Europe is in danger! Since the far-right took power in Hungary and Poland, fundamental rights have been violated, with the pandemic used as an excuse for further erosion. Attacks on freedom of press, hate speech towards the LGBTQIA+ community, women’s reproductive rights, and migrants, plus the dismantling of independent judiciaries – these are all happening right now - here in the EU. The European Commission has demanded explanations from both governments for years now, and nothing has changed. The time has come for the EU Council to act decisively. The German presidency must take the initiative and use Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations to impose financial sanctions.
7. Migrants’ Lives Matter
People are dying on the EU’s external borders due to the lack of a humane migration policy. The German Presidency has a political and moral duty to end this. No more deals made with autocrats and dictators! Human rights cannot be used as a trade-off in exchange for other benefits – they are indivisible and unconditional. Internment camps on Greek islands and slave camps in North Africa must be closed. Action should also be taken against the EU and member states’ border officials for their inhumane treatment of those in need. The EU must provide safe passage, family reunification, humanitarian visas, and sea rescue to save lives. The Council needs to negotiate with the European Parliament to reform the Dublin Regulation.
8. No Singapore-On-Thames.
The ‘Corona Presidency’ must also deal with the ongoing Brexit nightmare, as a Hard Brexit looms. We need a contingency plan to protect the hundreds of thousands of jobs depending on EU-UK trade worth €500 billion annually, a quarter of which is with Germany. Any rump treaty should protect citizens’ rights and social, environmental and consumer standards against a race to the bottom. Merkel must also ensure that Europe fulfils its duty as guarantor of peace in the north of Ireland by ensuring the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented.
9. Digital Reconstruction
In the context of the post-pandemic recovery, digitisation and artificial intelligence allows Europe to improve the quality of life of citizens and create secure communication spaces fit for the modern digital economy. Investment and regulation are needed to achieve social justice and provide economic support for Europeans, but German industry has waged war against EU ePrivacy proposals. The German Presidency needs to put citizens’ data privacy at the heart of its policy, and ensure that digital jobs are protected across Europe. It must make sure digital businesses contribute fairly to recovery, and enact legislation shelved due to coronavirus to protect digital rights as track-and-trace apps are developed.
Commenting on these critical issues, GUE/NGL Co-president Martin Schirdewan (DIE LINKE) said:
The challenges facing the EU were not triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic; rather, they have been exacerbated by the crisis.
Germany’s Presidency of the EU Council has got to solve all these problems, not in the interests of the big companies and the mega rich, but for the benefit of all Europeans.
This means putting an end to the austerity policy, practising universal human rights at the EU’s external borders, and to stop a race-to-the-bottom, dumping competition with Britain.
This article first appeared on the GUE/NGL Website. Reproduced with permission.