Moving targets and decoys

Fuelled with the anger of seeing relatives, friends and colleagues falling into poverty and unemployment, joining the 120 million other Europeans experiencing poverty and 26 million without a job, we are ready to fight and argue with political leaders to fix that situation and to get social policies as the driver for European integration. These are our messages to the European Council meeting next Thursday.

But will the heads of state and government consider our messages? What is their priority at the moment? On which battlefield are they so that we can challenge them? How can we get our worrying priority to be theirs?

When you plan your campaign strategy, there is nothing more annoying than being ready to engage in battle and to see your counterpart changing the rules and constantly leaving for another battlefield. It is even more annoying to realise that what you thought was a target is in fact a decoy.

Let me explain. Three years ago the heads of state said that their focus was the Europe 2020 strategy. It included the reduction of poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates. Despite our disappointment on the level of the targets we engaged in that battle. But very soon the Europe 2020 strategy started to look more and more like a decoy – by 2011 the Council had switched its focus to economic governance with the fiscal compact and the control of macroeconomic imbalances. The rules and battlefield had changed and the poverty target became a decoy – with few actions and the number of people experiencing poverty growing dramatically (+4 million in 3 years).

Willing to engage, we redirected our actions towards the economic governance asking for the inclusion of a social pillar to improve the life of people. That social pillar would obviously address the social consequences of the crisis and ensure adequate social protection to all.

But now our leaders have moved to yet another battlefield: the Economic and Monetary Union. Last December, the Council established a roadmap towards an Economic and Monetary Union and by in June it should define the social dimension of it.

Let me give you an example of decoy. Next Thursday, the so called Spring Council is supposed to propose measures for the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy. But the main point on the agenda is economic policy. It will mainly address the euro plus pact and the internal market reforms (see the message from the president of the Council: the objective is to bring back growth to the European economy with the single market).

Citizens are disengaging from EU politics for many reasons. One is certainly because their day to day concerns are not being addressed by the EU and austerity measures are becoming synonymous to the EU. We are also losing them because it is difficult to try to constantly follow moving targets and to be played with decoys.

We owe it to all of them to remain on the battlefield and to get our messages across and implemented. As long as we stand still there will be a point when the Council will not be able to change battlefields and will have to hear and address our concerns with political and economic commitments.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand – Director