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May Day Protests: Crisis Brings A Big Turn-out …

  • May 2nd, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

may-day-euronews.jpg may-day-trust-spain.jpg may-day-trustorg.jpg“The social consequences of the global financial crisis are dire — especially in Europe’s peripheral regions — and painful austerity measures to reduce deficits and debt are aggravating this harsh reality.”

So says Laszlo Andor, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, in a commentary for May Day 2012.

It has been no ordinary day for celebration of trade union achievements and show of solidarity.

The parades in Europe have been big, enacted as demonstrations against harsh impacts of austerity policies, especially high employment – a sequel to the global financial crisis and public debt crises that followed.

CRISIS, PROTEST AND POLITICS

may-day-rt.jpg In France the government estimated that 316 000 had taken part in hundreds of protests throughout the country, more than four times the turn-out last year.

The movement had a special point, with union leaders this time demanding the ejection of the incumbent President, Nicolas Sarkozy, in the second phase of Presidential elections set for this Sunday 6.5.12.

(Mr Sarkozy in reply rallied 100 000 supporters for his conservative cause in Paris, calling it a gathering of “real workers”).

In Greece also the May Day demonstrations were focused on parliamentary elections set for Sunday; long anticipated, in the hard economic climate a great danger for all incumbents, and problematic choice for the voters.

With the crisis of debt hitting hardest in the South, major turn-outs were seen in the streets, also, in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

EU PROGRAM FOR “JOBS AND GROWTH”

andor.jpgProf. Andor, 45 (picture), in Brussels, an economist from  Hungary, for five years a Board member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, himself identified with the Hungarian Socialist Party, voiced a widespread concern that austerity will block off  growth, and therefore recovery – backing collaborative EU jobs programs as a first answer.

He said the European Union “jobs and growth” policy, for coordinating investment and financial management, also was supporting the “social dimension” of fairness.

The way out depended on building up still more EU collaboration.

MOST VULNERABLE GROUPS

“ In tough economic times, we have to be sure that the most vulnerable social groups are better protected at a time of national budget cuts, and civil society organisations can play a valuable role in this effort”, he said.

“While there is a risk at a time of financial emergency and fiscal consolidation, we need to prevent the erosion of social, environmental and occupational health and safety standards.

“Beyond this, we must also ensure that austerity does not undermine growth-enhancing measures, and that weaker regions are supported to follow in the same direction …

MORE EU COORDINATION ON JOBS / BALANCING NORTH-AND-SOUTH

“How to address the current challenges in Europe’s core and periphery, often simplified as North and South, is therefore a key question of this time.

“Readiness to reform in the South has to connect with a readiness to support in the North. If we do not stabilise the peripheral regions, from both an economic and social point of view, their continuing crisis will undermine both the prosperity and the social achievements of Europe’s core countries …

“EU leaders made a clear case for resolute action on employment and a stronger social dimension when they last met in March.

TOUGH BUDGETS – “SELF-DEFEATING” ?

“So there is, I believe, a realisation that a policy of fiscal discipline alone may prove self-defeating …

“There is a new awareness of the importance of social as well as economic returns, and the interconnection between the two…

“Employment must be recognised as a source of economic growth, and not just a delayed by-product of the recovery…

PACKAGE OF MEASURES

“This is the context in which I presented, on 18.4.12, a package of employment measures to identify opportunities in the EU that will support job creation (for example related to protecting the environment, health care and ICT), and setting out how EU funds can be used to help Member States make long-term investments in human capital.

“The package is about laying the ground for a genuine European labour market where workers can move confidently between and within jobs across the EU and progress in their career in a growth friendly environment.

“Crucially, the new package is also about the social partners -  not only their role in employment policy but also their increased involvement in EU governance and EU decision-making…

“On Labour Day, I cannot emphasise enough that we need to emerge from this crisis with more, not less, social dialogue.

“This is crucial if we are going to move beyond austerity and achieve sustainable and job-rich growth, and restore fairness and equal opportunities…

“The essence of the European social model is that we do not allow economic policies and activities to disconnect from social values and rights. We also believe that a civilised society always responds to a crisis with more solidarity…”

Reference

Laszlo Andor, Commissioner for Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, Brussels, “May Day 2012: Looking at Europe’s social model – today and tomorrow”, 30.4.12. http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/headlines/news/2012/04/20122304_en.htm, (2.5.12).

BBC News, London, “May Day marches: Activists protest against austerity”, 1.5.12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17904349, (2.5.12).

Renee Maltezou, “Marches in Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal”, Reuters, London, 1.5.12. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/01/protests-idUSL5E8G11BR20120501, (2.5.12).

Pictures  -  ec, euronews, cryptome.org, rt, trust.org

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