Tuesday

14th Jul 2020

Bailout troika 'in breach' of EU human rights laws

Austerity programmes agreed with the troika of international lenders (the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) are in breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, according to a German legal expert.

Andreas Fischer-Lescano, a professor of European law and politics at the University of Bremen was tasked by the European Trade Union Confederation to look at the legality of so-called memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed between bailed-out countries and their lenders.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He concluded that under the EU charter of fundamental rights, a legal text which became binding for member states in 2009, several austerity measures enshrined in the MoUs can be fought in courts.

"There are certain limits to what you can write in a memorandum of understanding. In a bank contract too, there are limits to what can be written, courts and laws are always limiting that. In international agreements it should be the same, the troika MoU is not beyond the law either," Lescano told this website.

He noted that a recent inquiry by the European Parliament (EP) into the work of the troika was right to question its legal basis, particularly the European Central Bank's lack of a mandate to demand structural reforms from national governments.

"But this is just part of the problem. The EP inquiry is almost not looking at all at the human rights component," Lescano added.

His study highlights that the MoUs "have seriously limited the autonomy of employers and trade unions to negotiate wages."

"In Ireland, wages had to be lowered by one euro per hour. And the rationale for this austerity measure is not even there. Because when autonomy is not working, the state has to supplement the lacking income, as it is in Germany."

Education and health care reforms prescribed in the memorandums are also questionable because they are focusing too much on cutting budgets, he said.

"It is true that at national level such measures are sometimes taken, but what is dangerous here with the troika is the bundling of all these austerity measures, which lead to serious consequences, especially for vulnerable groups."

He noted that the concept of “financial stability” was put above all other considerations. "But financial stability cannot be achieved without social stability," he said.

"What is missing is the EU taking its own responsibility for these measures. They always say responsibility for the adoption and application of these measures lies with member states. But without agreeing to these terms, there would have been no loans."

The German expert was wary about the prospect of a legal challenge in European courts being likely to repel the MoUs in their entirety, but he expressed hope that some adjustments to the troika programmes could be made.

"We are still at the beginning of the discussion, but it is very important to get out of this fragmentation regarding social measures. Social conflicts are being wrongly framed as national conflicts. It is a common European issue and countries are just being played against each other: siesta in Spain vs. hard work in Germany," he said.

Social charter

For its part, in its annual report published on Wednesday (29 January), the Council of Europe's social rights committee noted that public policies since 2009 have been unable to stem a generalised increase in poverty on the continent.

The committee identified some 180 violations of European Social Charter provisions on access to health and social protection across 38 European countries.

In the bailed-out countries, the committee found several breaches - particularly in terms of wages and social benefits.

Ireland was found in breach of the social charter for not ensuring the minimum levels of sickness, unemployment, survivor’s, employment injury and invalidity benefits.

Greece and Cyprus have "inadequate" minimum unemployment, sickness, maternity and old age benefits, as well as a restrictive social security system.

Spain also pays too little to workers on sick leave and restricts the right of other Europeans to have access to social security.

End-of-troika debate amplifies ahead of Greek elections

A legal opinion by the EU top court and comments by the EU economics commissioner about the end of the bailout troika have come just days before elections in Greece, where troika-imposed austerity is a central issue.

MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform

MEPs adopted on Thursday the Mobility Package covering truck drivers' working conditions - rejecting amendments pushed by central and eastern member states. However, the European Commission warned that two new rules might be not align with the Green Deal.

News in Brief

  1. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  2. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  3. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system
  4. Berlin wants first use of EU cyber sanctions on Russia
  5. Erdogan warns neighbours over hydrocarbon reserves
  6. Bulgaria: political crisis amid anti-corruption protests
  7. Pope and Turkish-German leader join Hagia Sophia protest
  8. France and UK create joint migrant intelligence unit

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  2. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK
  3. Let's have positive discrimination for EU stagiaires
  4. We need to do more for our small and medium-sized enterprises
  5. Romania's virus surge prompts queues and new worries
  6. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  7. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  8. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us