Europe needs to learn from the 2008 crisis and its austerity-based response: the actions taken after the coronavirus crisis must be based on solidarity and socially-oriented principles that will help people, public services and companies recover and strengthen, write Femke Halsema, Ada Colau, Giuseppe Sala, and Anne Hidalgo.
The authors are mayors Femke Halsema (Amsterdam), Ada Colau (Barcelona), Giuseppe Sala (Milan), Anne Hidalgo (Paris).
The European cities are following with great attention and concern the negotiations that are taking place in the Eurogroup at this time. The result of these negotiations and the way out of the social and economic emergency caused by the impact of the pandemic in Europe is crucial for our future.
In this sense, we celebrate the progress that the agreement of the Eurogroup signifies to mobilize 500,000 million. It is a very important first step that opens up new horizons. But due to the scope of the crisis, more important decisions will have to be taken that will directly affect our cities.
That is why we, the cities, want our voice to be heard and to share the following considerations with the European institutions:
First of all, we believe that the 2008 crisis and the austerity-based response has to be a learning process. The lack of a commitment towards a social solution to the crisis at that time weakened our public services, delayed economic growth and generated social inequality that we are still paying the price for.
The cities have experienced first-hand the consequences of those policies, caring for the most vulnerable people and facing the suffering that they caused. Today, with the public services responding heroically to the pandemic, we miss the resources that did not reach us due to the cutback policies. We mustn’t go back to a failed formula.
Secondly, understanding everything that is at stake in these negotiations, we request that the principles of solidarity and cooperation prevail.
The cities have a long experience in cooperation between us, which we have intensified with this health crisis and we know from experience that in the face of crises, union, solidarity and cooperation are fundamental. More than ever, it is necessary that you do not abandon these principles.
Thirdly, given that cities are the first administration that the European citizens turn to for support when difficulties arise, we ask the EU to guarantee us direct access to part of the structural funds that the European Commission has unblocked to tackle the pandemic and its consequences; also, that the mobilization of the funds promoted is not conditional on the development of austerity plans.
The way out of this crisis should also mean a strengthening of local power and a greater capacity for a direct relationship with the European administration.
Fourthly, in order to enable a faster economic revival than the one which occurred after the 2008 crisis, we strongly underline the need to share the costs of this reactivation between northern and southern Europe, in solidarity with the entire European people.
We believe that we must prioritize access to low-cost credit and financing so that our public services can recover and strengthen themselves, that our companies can grow once again and that new employment opportunities should soon be activated.
Furthermore, in order to finance this recovery, we believe that we must move towards a European model of taxation based also on solidarity.
We are European and Europeanist cities and we trust that this time, the European authorities will rise to the occasion.
Europe has the opportunity to send a solid and forceful message to all citizens: against hate speech, against a discourse of individualism, against austerity policies, a stronger Europe, with greater solidarity, which is committed to finding a social way out, that listens to cities and protects and helps them against the major future challenges that lie ahead.
We offer the European institutions the total collaboration of our cities in the development of social policies so that no one is left behind socially or economically because of this crisis.
We will be the best allies for a social response to the crisis if we count on their support and if the measures taken place the economy at the service of people.