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We need a different vision for Europe

Louka T. Katseli
Co-chair, Professor of Economics
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Former President

Our societies are in crisis. This crisis is not only social and environmental. It is also economic and political. The four crises feed into each other. None of these crises can be overcome without reversing growing inequalities and changing the way our economic system operates.


In six months’ time, millions of Europeans will go to the ballot box to choose the next European Parliament. Nationalists and self-proclaimed progressives have already designated this election as a confrontation between democrats and autocrats, and between pro- and anti-Europeans. This is not what this election is about, and it is not by demonising those who may be tempted to cast their vote for nationalist and extremist parties that those parties and their shallow politics will be defeated.
What is at stake in the next European elections is whether or not our generations will be able to place the sustainable well-being of everyone at the very core of our common European project, of our policies and of our actions. Whether or not our societies will be able to engage themselves into a different future than the one we are moving into right now.

We need to build a different future
Without radical change, our societies will continue to leave entire territories and millions of people behind, ever more wealth created by everyone will be channeled into the hands of the few, working conditions will deteriorate, and climate change and other forms of environmental degradations will fuel ever more social injustice. Our democracies will not resist such inaction.
We need to build a different future through a profoundly fair and sustainable society. In this form of society, democracies are solid and people are empowered to make their voice heard, as citizens and through strong representations, in particular trade unions and non-governmental organisations. Companies are accountable for the economic, social and environmental impact. Technological change brings new progress to everyone, not only to a minority.
Nobody earns less than a living wage ensuring a decent life for all working families. Young and long-term unemployed benefit from strong public support to find a new job or to access quality training within a short amount of time. All children have a guaranteed right to live in dignity, and to quality education. Women are guaranteed equal rights and equal pay for equal work. Quality housing is affordable and accessible to everyone.

This form of society where we will achieve sustainable well-being for everyone is not utopian. We can start to build it now.

No territory is left behind, as more effective regional policies succeed in helping them to develop their full potential. Industrial changes needed to fight climate change and put an end to other environmental degradations take place within just transitions. Welfare systems are equipped to prevent environmental inequalities and to address climate change consequences in order to avoid new social inequality, and environmental policy becomes a source of new social progress.

A radical agenda for change
In order to frame this radically new policy approach, European and national policies will target explicit sustainable well-being goals, which contain key economic, social and environmental objectives and indicators. Today’s budgetary rules become part of a much wider Sustainable Development Pact, which will guide policy action in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The report’s proposals from the Independent Commission for Sustainable Equality, which we co-chair cover the need to re-empower people in our weakened democracies, to re-shape capitalism, to re-build social justice, to ensure real social-ecological progress and to radically change the way European economic, social and environmental policies are framed. Progressive political forces now need to take the lead and unite around a radical agenda for change.

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