The legitimacy of European integration must rely on the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable prosperity, based on solidarity between European countries and European citizens. However, this is not where we are currently headed. The general question of a socially just European integration comes down to a number of concrete issues. This is an open-ended list that we are asking contributors to write about.
Labour markets, purchasing power, cost of living
Over the last years and decades, a part of European citizens have found themselves in a good position on the labour markets, what has allowed them to reach and maintain high living standards. However, many other Europeans have seen their purchasing power decline and their job insecurity increase. Many of us – notably the low skilled, women, young individuals and immigrants – pass from one temporary job with poor social protection to another, with shorter or longer unemployment spells in between. Others, and this is a considerable part of the middle classes, have stable jobs – but can afford less and less from their disposable income. This interacts with price levels: notably, we are experiencing a situation of skyrocketing housing prices in cities accompanied by a devaluation of rural areas. All those named above (and this makes the majority of the European population) are not sufficiently represented in European politics. Labour market “outsiders” often lack any representation at all; and “insiders” are concerned by the question of: how can we represent labour strongly in a large open economic space? Further, looking both at forms of unpaid work – such as care work – and at the eruption of labour markets through automatisation, we must pose the question of: how should all of Europe change its concepts of “labour” and “pay”?
Regional divergence; fiscal, monetary and industrial policy
Over the last years and decades, we have seen strong regional divergence within Europe: some countries gained as a whole, others lost. Since the crisis, whole regions of our continent are suffering from spectacular levels of unemployment and the loss of industries that have traditionally served as the basis of their economies. The rigid fiscal constraints that European countries are obliged to follow and the deflationary monetary policy implemented by the ECB decreased public investments and depressed the internal demand even more. Moreover, these developments are partly an effect of the ways in which the European Monetary Union has been implemented. How to solve this unacceptable situation – by a change in the fiscal policy paradigm? A solidaric common budgetary policy? Industrial policy measures? And how, by the way, do we avoid or mitigate the next financial crisis?
Social policy; fiscal justice; models of enterprise
After the Monetary Union, is it the time for a better integration at the social level? Many scholars and intellectuals are strongly pushing for the creation of centralized European social policy measures: the European unemployment insurance scheme, the Basic Income and other redistributive policies. This touches directly on the question of: who will pay for this? In 2019, Europeans are upset about fiscal justice! Socio-economic inequality on our continent has reached unprecedented levels: and still, it is the many who pay, while tax cuts for the very richest are being passed by our governments; and fair taxation for multinational companies, as well as for financial transactions, is still, in 2019, far from being introduced. When talking of companies, let us go one step further and ask: what models of economic enterprise do actually benefit our societies – and which, simply, don’t? All of these are issues that can hardly be tackled by any European country alone – but only, together.
You cannot be the world’s richest region – an effect, notably, of the unequal interaction inside this region itself and with the rest of the world – and forbid migration: it is going to happen under any circumstances. Migration is here to stay, so let us regulate it in reasonable and humane ways; in ways that work for everyone involved: for those who live in a place receiving migrants, for those who migrate, for those who stay in places that people emigrate from. In discussing the regulation of migration, we propose to understand the issue as a function of two topics: the inequality of chances between (European and world-) regions on the one hand; and the capacity of destination places to achieve high levels of social integration on the other.
One of the most urgent issues at the global level is environment protection. At the same time, as current French politics shows: the environmental issue is inseperable from the social issue, as it poses the question of: who pays for the transition to a sustainable economic practice? – How can Europe address this issue as a unitary entity? How can we do so in a socially just way?
These and more issues we propose to discuss – proposing ideas for a Europe that works, for all.