People 'rejecting' EU austerity steps


Socialist MEP Paul Murphy told the EU Parliament in Strasbourg today it was clear the significance of what had happened across Europe in the past weeks had been lost on leaders of the European Union.

“People are rejecting your failed austerity policies that have created mass unemployment and returned economies to recession. . . . Growth will not be achieved by simply stamping the word on an austerity treaty because austerity kills growth,” he said.

He asked whether the commission would accept a No vote from the Irish people in next Thursday’s referendum on the fiscal treaty.

“People in Ireland on the 31st May will have an opportunity to join with millions of others across Europe in saying no to austerity and no to the austerity treaty. If we vote No, will the commission accept the verdict of the Irish people, accept that austerity has once again been rejected and throw the [austerity] policy and the treaty in the dustbin where it belongs?”

Mr Murphy was speaking at a parliamentary debate ahead of an informal meeting of EU leaders tomorrow that will concentrate on growth and jobs.

European Commission chief Jose Manual Barroso was unable to attend the parliamentary debate as he was in Chicago at meetings of the G8 and Nato.

EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn told MEPs that Europe found itself at a turning point yet again in the debt crisis. He said tomorrow’s meeting was an “opportunity to seize momentum for growth”.

“Mr Barosso will urge EU leaders at the meeting to deliver commitments they have made to promote stability and implement structural reform. We can never have sustainable growth as long as we have unsustainable debt. Every euro servicing debt is a euro less going to jobs and investment,” he said.

He said deficits were falling across Europe and that countries like Ireland were “returning to growth.”

Among the measures to stimulate growth that will be discussed tomorrow are expanding the capital available to the European Investment Bank, stepping up trade agreements with key trade partners, optimising use of structural funds and introducing a tax on financial transactions. The latter, which will be voted on in parliament tomorrow, could raise €57 billion in revenue that could be used for targeted investment, according to Mr Rehn.

However he warned that there was “no silver bullet” for economic growth. “If there was it would have been fired. This crisis happened over many years. And the rebalancing we are going through won’t happen overnight either,” he said.

Mr Rehn said the commission wanted Greece to “remain part of the European family” and acknowledged the “difficult and demanding” journey the country was undertaking.

“But it is a journey we are taking together in pact of stability. The euro area has stood by Greece in all of its difficulties, and we will continue to do so. That said, Greece must remain determined to reform. The alternative would be far worse”.