Weeklog Kartika Liotard: Hard-hearted

2 April 2010

Weeklog Kartika Liotard: Hard-hearted

The 'EU year for combating poverty and social exclusion' has become, as a result of a deliberate action by the Netherlands, nothing more than a sop. The two governing coalition parties, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Union, both of which are always preaching 'love thy neighbour', profited from the plethora of attention paid to the Greek euro and came out of it smelling of roses. The 80 million Europeans who can't cover their own basic needs have been driven even further down into the margins of a hard existence by this political prank.

During the recent EU summit on Brussels the government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende insisted that concrete policy proposals regarding the fight against poverty should be curtailed and weakened. Various other member states were obliged by the Dutch veto to sideline plans. Balkenende was happy to see the poor disappear from the agenda.

But did this mean that poverty vanished too? Neoliberal reasoning is that a flourishing economy will be enough to ensure that poverty is ended and that the EU should not be meddling in this. I call that hard-hearted. In Balkenende's opinion, reducing poverty should not be a goal, but is simply in itself the consequence of economic growth. That's incorrect, however, as is shown by the fact that poverty also increased when the economy was going well.

Reasoning from a social perspective indicates that the EU should, for example, reverse the liberalisation of rights on dismissal, so that fewer people would be out of a job and fewer people would fall into poverty. But precisely the opposite is happening. Another example? The EU could put a stop to murderous competition in the postal industry instead of stirring it up, ensuring that postal workers can earn a decent wage. But reversing privatisation is not what the EU is about.

The growing social divide is the consequence of a hard-hearted policy that is creating ever more victims. Even the new PvdA (Labour Party) leader Job Cohen (who according to scornful Christian Democrats hasn't a clue about economics) has now openly recognised, in a recent lecture, that "a fundamental reorientation and renewal are needed ... in order to combat social division and fragmentation." Cohen's statement represents a turning to the left by Labour, which I hope after the elections of 9th June does not become a turn back.

9th June
The political force needed to keep the pensionable retirement age at 65 depends on how much negotiating power this is given by the voter. Combating poverty must remain a top priority, key words for this election. After 9th June we must see the deeds to match them, action against poverty and social exclusion. For Balkenende the European year for combating poverty and social exclusion came to a close at the end of March. I reckon 9th June to be the sell-by date for his own, poverty-stricken policies...

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