The EU’s response to the financial crisis and the escalating eurocrisis has exposed more clearly than ever the disastrous dominance of neoliberal ideology. Obsessed with budgetary discipline, EU decision-makers are imposing sweeping austerity measures, privatising public services and cutting welfare. Corporate lobby groups see their longstanding demands implemented overnight while the living standards of millions are undermined and economies grind to a halt.
The EU’s emphasis on free markets and deregulation in the last two decades was a crucial factor in causing the current crisis. This included:
Deregulation of the financial markets, allowing a credit-fuelled bubble that collapsed in 2008, and which boosted the powers of speculators
The single currency which exacerbated the differences between stronger and weaker economies
The drive for liberalisation and ‘competitiveness’ which left almost every sector of society exposed to market forces, at the expense of social rights, environmental regulation and public services.
These flawed policies were heavily influenced by corporate lobbying, reflecting how big business had captured the policy-making processes in Brussels and in member states.
Since 2008, billions of taxpayers' euros have been spent on saving banks that had recklessly gambled on speculative markets, transferring private debt to public debt. Following the crisis, the power of the financial lobbies - and their easy access to decision-makers - has ensured that only limited regulation has been introduced.
EU decision-makers pre-occupied with appeasing the financial markets are now implementing new ‘economic governance’ rules and a new EU treaty to support their “shock doctrine”. These measures challenge the core of democracy in Europe, putting crucial decisions in the hands of technocrats. This is the Europe of big banks and corporations which sidelines any attempt at a ‘Social Europe’.
There are encouraging signs of resistance. The indignados and occupy movements, union strikes and demonstrations, mark a growing rejection of the EU's free-market fundamentalism. These are indicators of a different Europe emerging: a Europe that insists on democracy and refuses to be run by big business and technocrats.
Since 1997, Corporate Europe Observatory has been working to expose and counter the influence of corporations that is distorting democracy and undermining social and environmental protection. The urgency of discussing workable alternatives, strategy and common actions at the European level has never been more evident. Join us to celebrate our 15th anniversary in a two-day conference in Brussels with movements from across Europe to strengthen progressive responses to the EU's crisis. The conference will be in English with translations into French and Spanish provided.