‘Liberalism’ is back in new forms, this time with new aggressiveness! In the aftermath of the crisis, the mantra was on financial and fiscal consolidation resulting in reductions in investment capacity in way too many countries especially the ones under the rule of the Troika, and ‘financial orthodoxy’ was the ruling leitmotiv. Now we seem to witness new forms of unleashed liberal thinking. They argue on reduced public budgets without saying where the shortfall comes from, in reality, the elephant of private actors has entered the room again. In development cooperation, we get used to discuss the contribution of the private sector without making a distinction between the public and the private interest. In terms of European social policies, we have already seen the move from a social economy – in the general interest – to a social business model. Private capital and private actors dare defying welfare systems and the consolidated models of partnership between governments and social service providers based on the principle of subsidiarity. The consequence is a battle around the “most economic attractive tender” which was watered down in the European public procurement directive, but it then made a comeback at national level, again with the argument of reduced public budgets. Instead of engaging for a better coordination of wage policies (taking into account for example the ETUC’s call for pay rise), new models of private products to mitigate the income gap are about to see the daylight through a Commission’s initiative. Rightly, we are very much focused on the Proclamation of the Pillar of Social Rights around the Gothenburg Social Summit, whereas the real litmus test will be the written statement directive and the revision of the interpretative posting of workers directive and more. To be followed.
At the international level, the experience of the solidarity mission to the Philippines at the beginning of the week and the violent reaction of Duterte, is a new escalation threatening and denying civilisation standards. Democracy is never achieved and needs as always to be practiced and defended. Nevertheless it is impressive to see how uncivilized, inhuman and dictatorial powers are coming back on the national and international scene. This is where Europe needs to show whether all the speeches on Europe are really based on values, or whether they are simply nice words. When travelling outside of Europe it is recalled to us what are our major achievements are: democracy with its rule of law and the social welfare state. And these are not the results of uncontrolled and unleashed market forces. The success of the European consensus was a balance between economic development coupled with social protection. It was never competitiveness at any price leading to precarious economic and social conditions. If we want to defend the European project, we should be more challenging. We must raise our voices in a more determined way if we do not want our voices to be ruled out!
This editorial appeared in the Weekly Round Up of 13 October 2017.