The spread of the COVID-19 virus has precipitated a deep global crisis. It is a shock for all humanity that also has heavy effects on the economy. Drastic measures have been taken in almost every country in order to prevent contraction and to contain the pandemic. Indeed, every effort is necessary to protect the people. These measures have to be coordinated but yet a global response is missing. This is also the case for the EU, which is totally unable to promote solidarity. Italy, the most affected country, was left alone. Now, one country after another is taking drastic measures but there is no effective coordination by the European institutions. Eventually, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, declared to propose the activation of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact in order to permit budgetary measures to combat the crisis. That is not enough. This should be followed by the total cancellation of the Pact, which was used to impose austerity on public spending thereby undermining health care and other public services to the detriment of the people, who are now suffering from this in the Corona crisis. More efforts are necessary to counter the economic and social impact of the coronavirus. This also regards the European Central Bank (ECB) which has to assume its responsibility for economic development and full employment, and has to take every measure in order to avoid financial speculation. We need to ensure that national actions are coordinated and that a strong solidarity system for managing the coronavirus crisis is put in place.
The people have to be protected – socially and economically. Thousands of workers and employees are at risk to lose their jobs and their income. The most affected are those working under precarious conditions, in particular the cleaning personnel and care workers. The virus hits the weakest the hardest. While governments across Europe are calling on employees to work from home, this does not apply to everyone. Workers in essential services or essential production lines who have to be present on site need guaranteed protection from the spread of the virus. Many people fear for their health and professional existence. We need an economic rescue plan for workers and their families. In case of income loss, financial compensation is needed. Those who cannot, should not pay rents or mortgages. We object to any attempt to worsen working conditions like the suspension of collective agreements and to curtail workers’ rights. We need emergency action not just for businesses, but in particular for small, medium enterprises and autonomous workers and the people. This is not only a task for Europe but the whole world. The countries of the global South need financial support to protect their people and to improve their health care systems.
The coronavirus pandemic clearly shows the failure of the predominant neoliberal economic and social model. As a consequence of the neoliberal austerity policy through the privatization of public services, the health care systems do not correspond to the requirements posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The capacities are not sufficient by far. Any effort is necessary to increase the functioning of the health care systems. Austerity policy has to be ended. The crisis gives enough reasons to question our socio-economic model and to change policy radically. As an immediate measure we need more investment in public services. Additionally tax justice is very much needed in order to build up welfare systems which are able to cope with a crisis like this. Furthermore the ECB must finance a European investment plan, capable of launching employment and guaranteeing the environmental and social conversion of production and the economy. At the same time, any discussion on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which represents an unnecessary and harmful way of intervening on the public budgets of the various European countries, must be cancelled.
In the long run, we need a general change of politics. We need an economic model oriented towards the public welfare. The immense accumulation of capital by only a few must be stopped. For the many not the few!
We know that very severe measures are needed in order to contain the pandemic. But we need to be vigilant and oppose to use this particular situation to curtail democracy and civil rights.
The EL firmly rejects any attempt to misuse the corona pandemic for nationalist demagogy. The world must stand together now and the key for overcoming the crisis is international solidarity. Especially increasing solidarity is needed towards the people in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, who are in much more danger to be severely afflicted by the Corona pandemic.
The EL is eager to associate all the organizations taking part of the European Forum of left, progressive and ecological forces to work together on a progressive answer to the current crisis in the interest of the peoples.