Following CEO's EU in crisis conference, we are sharing contributions from conference participants giving their impressions from the conference. This contribution was written by Virginia Lopez.
Those who stayed for the closing plenary heard calls for citizens' mobilization. In the face of frontal attacks to their rights citizens must reclaim democracy and policies that put people at the centre. Indeed, the roots of today's crisis go beyond economic policy: it is a governance issue.
In our discussions on 5th and 6th May some of us called for growth and full employment, and for an end to austerity. We were outraged that workers' rights are under attack, emphasized the important role trade unions have to play in the resistance, stated that organized action at the workplace cannot be replaced by any other type of action. I do agree with all those points but I admit I am wary of letting our strategies focus on 'workers' rights', investment and growth, for two reasons.
One is that there are collectives, in addition to workers, that bear much of the damage from austerity measures. Migrants' rights are axed overnight; Spain for example has limited their access to healthcare while many Greeks voted for a neo-Nazi party on 6th May. Women are affected not only as workers but in their (gender) role as carers - bearing the brunt of dismantled social security systems. Sonia Mitralia argues that 'Greek women are now obliged to substitute for practically all public services (…) And all that is absolutely free'. In the UK, the Fawcett Society calls it the 'triple jeopardy' for women. Other collectives, particularly those working in the informal economy and those whose work is not recognized as work, like that of women responsible for reproductive tasks, would also feel their struggles are not factored in if we concentrate on for worker's rights as a strategy of resistance.
A second reason is that calling for growth and investment doesn't seem to question productivist discourses, capitalist and neoliberal being just two types of productivist discourse.
In fact, I felt that there was consensus among participants that the EU crisis is a governance issue: the democratic deficit of the European Union architecture, the hierarchies between member States and the lack of equality are at the core of the crisis. Yet, I left with the impression that are we lagging behind in devising concrete strategies and actions to pursue long-term goals like overcoming productivism, reinventing European democracy and bringing about equality.
It is in forums like the conference last weekend that we can come together and debate face to face this and other aspects of our alternative roadmap. Personally, I was able to 'map out' the different struggles taking place in Europe and understand better the different angles taken by different groups in responding to the crisis. That's indeed a step forward if what we want is to develop a common response! I am really looking forward to the next forum, I might get answers to the questions that arose from this meeting then.