Sunday

21st Oct 2018

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

News in Brief

  1. Germany leads EU criticism of Saudi Arabia
  2. Huge pro-EU march takes place in London
  3. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  4. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  5. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  6. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  7. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  8. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us