Wednesday, January 23, 2013

By Giorgos Melingonis, Journalist, political editor

The spectre of austerity looms over Europe. As time goes by, it becomes common knowledge that the crisis is not a Greek crisis, nor Portuguese or Spanish. The crisis is a European crisis, with global parameters. 
The German insistence on austerity threatens the European social acquis. The welfare state model is now demystified. Interventions which seemed taboo until 4 years ago are now seriously discussed and implemented. What does a country need to do to regain its competitiveness? Should we reduce wages, undermine labor rights? What does a country need to do to address its demographic problem? It’s budget should not be undermined by the increased costs of insurance policy, so pensions need to be cut. 
Despite the dramatic effects of austerity that have brought the countries of the European South in the brink of a humanitarian crisis, neither Berlin nor Frankfurt (ECB) doubt the effectiveness of these policies. On the contrary, they recommend and impose austerity and fiscal consolidation as gospel.

European crisis
Policies of austerity threaten not only the communities of highly indebted countries of the South. The most worrying is that the German protestant doctrine of fiscal consolidation is combined with the process of European integration. Berlin’s message is clear: "either this Europe or no Europe at all". German threats to Greece about being expelled from the Eurozone are indicative.
However, it is a matter of time for European societies to respond negatively to the question "is that Europe the Europe we want?" It's a matter of time before the anti-European tendencies that undermine the difficult, yet smooth, process of European integration over the last 30 years increase their influence. The rise of Nazism in Greece, intense separatism in Spain and the increasing influence of the extreme right in Italy already show the dark path ahead us.

Is TINA dead?
Is this the Europe we want? Definitely not. Since crisis is European and austerity imposed on countries in the South through the consolidation process, the alternatives should also be European. Forces of social democracy and the Left throughout South, but also throughout Europe, should give their own answers. Despite their differences, they should develop their own proposals and persuade European societies that Merkel’s TINA is wrong; there is another way to exit European debt crisis. 
With the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, forces of the Left in other European countries don’t have the influence needed to convince societies that "another European solution is possible." Therefore, the onus falls mainly to the forces of social democracy. To those forces which, throughout their governmental past, they concurred with conservative policies; and because of that past, they currently appear unable to persuade societies they have another solution. Initiatives of European Socialists about Tobin tax, for raising taxes on the rich and creating Eurobonds were a good start two years ago. But now that the crisis has deepened, such proposals are tentative arrangements that cannot lead to a gradual exit from the vicious circle of recession. Social democracy needs to overcome the old, bad governmental past and, through dialogue in the South of Europe, create a new policy agenda, capable of fascinating Europeans. This is why “south in talk” is needed. 

Socialdemocrats owe it to southern societies tested. They owe it to history of social-democracy, in order to remind Europeans that due to progressive forces, European social model became "acquis". Ultimately, progressive forces not only owe the process of creating an alternative to Europe, but to History itself. #thesouthintalk

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