The GUE/NGL Group organised its Study Days in Athens, Greece, from Tuesday 2nd to Thursday 4th of June 2015 at the InterContinental Athenaeum Hotel, Syngrou Avenue, 89-93.
The event focussed on several themes, including: debt in peripheral countries, causes, consequences and solutions; cohesion policy as a response to the financial crisis; the fight against austerity and social inequalities, alternative options for Europe and solidarity with the Greek people.
A press conference took place on Wednesday 3rd June, 14:00 at the InterContinental Hotel, with Gabi Zimmer, President of the GUE/NGL Group and Dimitris Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament
The meeting was open to the press.
For a summary of the proceedings, please scroll down to the end of this page.
Parts of the press conference by GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer and by Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitrios Papadimoulis during the Study Days in Athens.
DE & EL
Summary of the GUE/NGL Study Days in Athens (Greece)
02-04 June 2015
Tuesday, June 2nd: Periphery Debts: Causes, consequences and solutions
During its Study Days in Athens, Greece, the GUE/NGL Group sought to discuss and exchange views on such major issues as debt in peripheral countries, causes, consequences and solutions and cohesion policy as response to the financial crisis.
The meeting started with an inaugural speech by Gabi Zimmer, President of the GUE/NGL Group, stating that what we want is a just solution, not only for the Greek people but for the well-being of all Europeans.
Yannis Dragasakis, Vice-President of the Government and responsible for the Governmental Council on Economic Policy, informed the Group about the course and content of the negotiations, reiterating that the Greek government seeks a viable solution that will promote democracy, solidarity and growth with justice.
For Dimitris Papadimoulis, GUE/NGL MEP and EP Vice-President, this June could become a turning point for Greece because from guinea pig it could become a model of growth with justice, reducing inequalities and become a crack in the wall for severe austerity policies.
Panel 1: “A Political Economy of the Periphery Debt Accumulation”
Gabriel Colletis presented his proposal on solving Greece's debt problem, which includes encouraging productive investments through a part of the primary surplus and aiming at the reindustrialisation of the country in order to reduce imports, and thus trade deficit and capital flows. Alekos Kalyvis, responsible for SYRIZA's political bureau on economic policy and for the party’s programme, traced the structural inefficiencies of EMU, tax avoidance by the Greek wealthy class and how the banks, as the causes behind excessive debt accumulation, functioned during the pre-crisis period, while at the same time calling for an anti-neoliberal jolt to tackle this problem.
Panel 2: “The Uneven Geographies of the European Crisis”.
Marianna Mortagua, a Portuguese economist, presented the situation in Portugal, the degree to which the country has recovered from the crisis and whether this so-called recovery is justified, since the economy has never gone back to the pre-crisis level and in which there is a fragmentary labour regime with the working population increasingly emigrating from the country. Neoklis Sylikiotis (GUE/NGL MEP, Cyprus) saw in EU policies a new form of colonialisation and a violent redistribution of wealth from the poor countries of the south to the rich countries of the north that can end only through a class struggle. Marina Albiol (GUE/NGL MEP, Spain) stressed the importance of the people of Europe not developing national antagonisms since the common enemy is the capital that appropriates wages to sustain its profitability via the European Institutions.
Panel 3: “Standing with the Greeks for a European Alternative”.
Walter Baier, economist and coordinator of “transform! europe” network, emphasised that the struggle for the support of the Greek people and government is a struggle in the interest of all European countries and peoples, stressing the importance of a European solidarity front against austerity in which movements, trade unions and political parties will find their place. Myrto Bolota, coordinator of "solidarity4all" network from Greece, informed on the ways “solidarity 4 all” works and supports solidarity structures. For Barbara Spinelli, (GUE/NGL MEP, Italy) out of the crisis a new oligarchical Europe is being built from a fake federal shape; therefore, there must be a bond of solidarity between states and we should fight poverty through the welfare state.
Panel 4: “A European Solution to Periphery Debts”.
This session was chaired by Sofia Sakorafa (GUE/NGL MEP, Greece) and it focused on debt management and especially the Hellenic Parliament's Truth Committee on Public Debt. The Greek Parliament's President, Zoe Konstantopoulou, said that it is very important for the Greek people to learn what makes up this public debt which is used to blackmail people and parliament. Eric Toussaint, CADTM and Representative of the Audit Committee for the Greek debt, also underlined the huge debt Greece is invited to pay and that is a tool that can be used for blackmail; a really important step is to question the legitimacy of the debt. Fabio de Masi, (GUE/NGL MEP, Germany), mentioned that there are three options for countries in debt: development, inflation and deletion/restructuring. Only the third option is possible for Greece, whereas, debt cancellation is not an end in itself but a tool to release resources to the Greek economy.
Wednesday, June 3rd “The response of Cohesion to the Economic Crisis”
Panel 1: “When competitiveness undermines cohesion: employment and social welfare in the spectrum of the Agenda 2020”.
This session was chaired by Kostadinka Kuneva, (GUE/NGL MEP, Greece), who started with a reference to university research about the serious consequences of unemployment. Next, Rania Antonopoulou, Deputy Minister whose task is to tackle unemployment, remarked on the fact that living standards are under attack and the rise in unemployment is an expression of this policy which imposes that we should eliminate the budget deficit to develop this. Rina Ronja Kari (GUE/NGL MEP, Denmark) focused on EU competitiveness strategy and its effects on employment and noted that in the name of competitiveness one employer is pitted against the other and the result is poor workers.
Panel 2: “A Critical Assessment of Austerity Policies in the EU”.
At first Henri Malosse, President of the EESC, found that the prevailing policy constitutes a setback and that a new structural policy is necessary to give a boost to economic powers and then fight deficit. Martina Michels (GUE/NGL MEP, Germany) also emphasised that the abolition of macroeconomic conditionality is a requirement that should be highlighted. Finally, Kostas Chrysogonos (GUE/NGL MEP, Greece) who was chairing the panel commented that many countries have become hostage to markets, so we must have a fuller union with democratic processes so that there is a policy at European level.
Panel 3: “Another Europe is possible – Fighting austerity, inequalities and imbalances”
Nikos Chountis, Deputy Minister on European Affairs, focused amongst other issues, on what kind of Europe we want, he outlined this Europe which would move away from the neoliberal priorities that the European Treaties and Agreements have overstretched during the last 25 years. Malin Björk (GUE/NGL MEP) put gender issues in the picture since gender inequalities are severely affected by economic problems and she proposed that the parties seek new solutions for a more cohesive society. Concluding the Study Days, Gabi Zimmer called on the Left in Europe to organise collective actions, focusing on what we have in common and discarding our differences, since failure now could prove fatal.