On the 15th of October 2015, the German Foreign Minister, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, spoke about the state of European politics at an evening reception organised by Das Progressive Zentrum and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung. Opening words of welcome were spoken by Dr. Roland Schmidt, Director of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, and by Dominic Schwickert, Director of Das Progressive Zentrum. In his keynote address, Steinmeier outlined that Europe is faced with monumental challenges.
The Euro-zone crisis and the protracted, month-long negotiations about a new Greek bailout have brought to the fore deep cracks in the European integration project. It also bought to light difference between Europe’s progressive parties. Now Europe seems to be faced with a choice: more Europe and closer integration, or a reversion to nation states and national interests? Faced with this choice, the parliamentary group of the SPD invited Social Democrat parliamentarians from across the EU to Berlin for the first inter-parliamentary conference, entitled “Towards a Progressive Europe”. Das Progressive Zentrum organised the conference on behalf of the group.
The Central and Eastern European member states of the European Union (EU) predominantly reacted to the global financial crisis by implementing austerity policies and structural reforms, which have had negative repercussions for social justice. To counter this unfortunate development, this paper argues for a more European approach to both social and fiscal policy: in particular, a shift from passive social policy measures to a preventive approach based on social investment. Economic policy tools, such as a European minimum wage or a more universal approach to social benefits administration, could help prevent income poverty and social dumping, as well as foster regional investment. In order to cushion the regional consequences of asymmetrical monetary shocks, greater financial capabilities on the part of the EU are needed. This must be complemented by effective measures countering tax evasion practices and corruption. All of this demands a careful rethinking of the EU’s social and economic principles says Dr. Maria Skóra.
The relationship between Greece and Germany has often been described as a game of chicken. Two teenagers in a car are heading towards each other. In a head on confrontation, the first to swerve would lose. If neither of them swerves, they both die. The only way to win is to tie yourself to an immovable position. That is why the newly elected Syriza government hammers on about its political mandate, on which it has to deliver.
Germany has recently been criticised for its current account surplus, urged to spend on investment to reflate Europe’s markets. However, domestic demand has been growing lately and additional investments would only have a marginal impact on export growth in countries where this is needed most. Europe must face the truth: it seems unlikely that Germany will back a ‘large pan-Eurozone fiscal stimulus’.