Sunday

20th May 2018

Opinion

Europe: Time for a reset

  • Europe needs to live up to the promises of security, hope and progress for its people. We need to do better than we did with the financial and refugee crisis. (Photo: William Murphy)

In recent years the European project of solidarity and progress has struggled to deliver for people as well.

The banks and the euro were saved, but rising unemployment and stagnating wages, have left too many behind.

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Europeans saw their leaders quarrel over six packs, two packs, and fiscal compacts.

They watched them scuffle to solve the refugee crisis, all while the European project was severely damaged along the way.

The structural reforms of the economy were needed, but they mean very little to those who only suffered the consequences and who cannot reap the benefits.

Fiscal discipline was imperative for the survival of the euro, but a project of hope cannot be built on fiscal discipline alone.

Security becomes an empty concept for people when they see Europe fail on basics security requirements: common border protection. No wonder so many in the United States, are sceptical or turned away from politics altogether.

Give people a chance

Europe needs to live up to the promises of security, hope and progress for its people. We need to do better than we did with the financial and refugee crisis.

Crisis management is not enough.

Europe needs to deliver for its people. We need to combine our strength and actively engage with the issues that threaten our and our children’s future: social exclusion, demographic change, a squeezed middle class, and climate change.

Social Democrats can, and must, take the lead in this. We have always been the political force that worked, prudently and realistically, for a better Europe.

One of the crucial elements in this reengagement is a new investment policy.

Both the private sector and the public sector must invest more in the future.

Europe needs new infrastructures in order to deliver for its people.

A digital infrastructure and a research infrastructure to keep Europe ahead of the technology curve, a new energy infrastructure that enables us to become energy independent, and give a real answer to climate change.

A new industrial revival that can provide the diversity of quality jobs we need to give all Europeans a chance to get a decent job and build a decent life.

But new infrastructure requires large investments.

The Juncker fund has been paving the way for these new investments in the past months, but we are convinced more is needed. The European investment agenda needs to be emboldened and there's no time to waste.

The Netherlands is one of the countries with the largest national saving surpluses in Europe.

After much insistence by the Social Democrats in parliament, the Dutch government is bringing several institutions and investment schemes for businesses and large public projects together into a comprehensive National Promotional Bank (NPBI)). This bank can generate €100 billion of financing capacity.

But investment capital is only one aspect of an investment strategy. It can only work if European countries work together on creating a common investment agenda that can kick start the infrastructures that Europe needs too.

Europe: combine our strength

European countries share many common investment opportunities.

We have common energy infrastructure for offshore wind, high voltage transmission lines, a digital network for super fast internet and a focus on industries, that have a common added value, such as renewable technology.

Therefore, during the next leaders meeting of the Social Democrats I will propose a joint effort to take this investment agenda further.

Europe is in a dire need for a strong and consistent investment agenda. Inflation remains low, interest rates are still going down and if we are not careful, new bubble in housing and stock markets can arise.

The Dutch economy - as is the German - is in a perfect situation to provide for much-needed investments.

With higher domestic demand in these two important economies, the rest of Europe can profit too.

Engineers, factory workers, architects, transportation companies, and more. Employees and companies from all over Europe profit when we combine forces and invest in a sustainable future where there is a place for everybody.

Now is the time to start.

Diederik Samsom is the Netherland's Labour Party leader

Analysis

Doubts hang over EU investment plan's future

Questions of value for money and a lack of transparency complicate adding almost €200 billion more and extending the Juncker investment plan to 2020.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

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