Following CEO's EU in crisis conference, we are sharing contributions from conference participants giving their impressions from the conference. This second contribution was written by Tomas Tomilinas.
It was a great experience to observe the extraordinary level of preparation for 'EU in Crisis' conference in Brussels provided by CEO and TNI - with all draft final papers, speakers memos and other important info put in the participant folders and web. As a trade union member, and an activists for social rights and environment from Lithuania and thus Eastern Europe I got broad perspective about general EU social movement situation, networks and corporate lobbing monitoring think tanks and what direction the main players in this area suggest all of us to move. The necessity of stronger fight against austerity was presented by outstanding economists, activists, trade unionists and activists with data and arguments. The complex view about situation in different EU countries, not only Greece, was there. I was satisfied with attentions paid by speakers to East Europe, South Europe and global context, although most of the speakers were from "the West". The deportation of main speaker, who came from Philippines by Belgian authorities because of lack of visa, reminded me the everyday situation in Lithuania, being the EU border country we feel what "fortress Europe" is like. The border with neighbouring Belarus was never so tight as it is after we joined Shengen. Visa issue is so annoying and inhuman. Visa perhaps is the most stupid social invention of beginning of XX century.
The main challenge for the conference was ongoing conflict in the left about perception of growth. Many participants reacted strongly against using of the word growth when speaking about any solution of EU crisis. I got the impression by plenary and especially informal discussion during the lunch or breaks with other participants that environment can no longer be just part of left agenda, like anti-discrimination or migration, piece or global aid. Environment is a solution to the crisis. When we speak about austerity, we have to say that we need more austerity in terms of resources, consumption, sectoral development. The fight for better salaries and pensions cannot avoid the urgent need for radical reform of the "luxury seeking culture". We cannot seek social equality in the world of large billboards with new BMW car advertisement on every street or public place of Brussels or any other city. The promotion of consumerism is fuelling inequality so much, that we need radical change for that and we will always run behind the process if we only fight for higher salaries and better social services. The problem cannot be delayed into the future. It was great that conference lunch was vegan. Smart step.
I came to conference from the country most effected by austerity measures. Voluntary austerity by government even without troika intervention. Salaries almost have not grown for decades. Thirty per cent of people live on 300 Euro salary net per month, with 150 Euro month payment for heating in winter and food prices higher than in Germany. We are selling our cheap labour to western economies as we are the country with the highest level of emigration in the EU. We are destroying our food production and environment by EU subsidies for larger and cheaper farms (eg. Danish pig farms). Scandinavian banks are playing with Baltic economies very dangerous games. As the anti-precarity and environment movement is growing in Lithuania, I believe we will put more and more pressure and win some changes.The practical solutions and visions of democratic control over the banks, reduction of financial speculation provided during the conference is of great importance for our local fight, which is global at the same time. I am happy I was able to get confidence for it during the conference.