On 17 March, Roger Liddle, member of the House of Lords, was invited to speak at an ETUI Monthly Forum on the future of social Europe. The former adviser to British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair is a co-author of the study 'The social reality of Europe after the crisis', published by the Foundation for European Progressives Studies. He issued a plea for the development of a new narrative for social Europe based on a credible economic policy programme.
‘We are no longer on a road towards convergence. There are massive divergences within and between Member States. We desperately need a new model for inclusive growth’, Roger Liddle stated. In the context of increasing forms of inequality between generations, he referred specifically to the pay gap between young and older workers.
Widespread social disparities within the UK could certainly have an impact on the outcome of the June referendum on EU membership, the speaker said. ‘The anger and anxieties of those citizens who feel left behind is a big risk for Brexit and for Europe’, Baron Liddle pointed out.
Restoring people’s confidence in welfare state institutions would require the formulation of a new narrative based on substantial and credible economic arguments, said Lord Liddle who, in this context, advocated new steps at EU level towards corporate tax harmonisation. Such a policy, he argued, could generate considerable resources for Member States to embark on new investment in education for those on the lowest rungs of the social ladder, as well as for other social investment programmes.
Ernst Stetter, Secretary General of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), also stressed the urgent need to push forward a new paradigm for Europe. Bemoaning the lack of political commitment to move in that direction, he pointed out that ‘the last time the European Parliament held a debate on social Europe was ten years ago’.
In this respect, Montserrat Mir, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, lamented the fact that over the past two decades newly elected left-wing governments in Europe had proved unable to initiate economic policies fundamentally different from those promoted by the conservatives. In her view, the ongoing discussion about a European Pillar of Social Rights offers few grounds for optimism. ‘At the present time, it is a sadly weak Social Pillar’, she commented.
Foundation for European Progressive Studies: "The social reality of Europe after the crisis" (June 2015)
David Natali and Bart Vanhercke (OSE)