Roland Kulke provides an overview of a research study commissioned by transform! europe which analyses the measures to offset the financial impact of the Covid19 crisis in 11 EU Member States for the years 2020 and 2021.
Briefly after the onset of the pandemic, individual EU Member States began devising measures to offset the financial repercussions of the Covid19 crisis. The European Commission (EC), too, proposed such plans. Finally, EU members agreed in February 2021 to set up a fund to the tune of €750bn.
The NextGenerationEU fund (NGEU) breaks a taboo, which not solely people on the left appreciate. For the first time, EU governments decided to take on common debt to a relevant extent. This approach is starkly different from that during the 2008 Lehman Brothers financial crisis, which focused on implementing cuts.
Is everything different this time, then? Has the EU triggered a paradigm shift and fundamentally changed its approaches? In spite of positive developments, we have ample reason to remain wary.
We do note that the NGEU fund provides specific connecting points to develop the EU further in a progressive manner, such as through substantial investment in climate-aware production and expanding access to the internet in rural areas, too.
To better understand national plans, we have asked authors from all parts of the European Union to analyse the national governmental Recovery and Resilience Fund in their respective countries for the 2020 to 2021 period: Austria, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal.
The research questions were: How do the individual countries debate a potential return of austerity, i.e. a return of the Troika? Are there debates about the care economy, i.e. paid and unpaid labour and services that support caregiving in all its forms? We also explore the plans states have for investments in production and digitalisation with the climate in mind. Much of what the left aims to implement cannot be achieved without true governmental industrial policy. What has the debate on the role of public enterprises in the EU been like? Finally, we have asked about left-wing alternatives to hegemonial state projects.
The results of the studies are ambivalent. On the one hand, there are positive developments vis-à-vis the marked refocusing of production, towards reduced use of fossil fuels, higher energy efficiency, strengthening renewable energies and tightening of CO2 caps for cars. Power structures within the EU among the different member states has however not been addressed, just like it has not been addressed within the Member States.
Additionally, the EC led by Ursula von der Leyen focused on growth policy and militarisation. On the one hand, social policies such as strengthening the power of unions remains lacking; on the other hand the “recommendations” made to the different Member States put forward by the EC remain as neoliberal as they always have been. In light of the impending triple crisis of war, Covid19 and the climate catastrophe, the left has to double down on its efforts promoting the positive shaping of the space created by the NGEU Fund.
The full study will be presented shortly and will be available on the website of transform! europe.