The European Anti-Poverty Network conference, supported by the Belgian EU Presidency, has been exploring the theme ‘Laying the Foundations for a Fairer Europe: Ensuring an adequate minimum income for all’.
Euronews asked the top EU official involved, Laszlo Andor, the EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, about current public feeling.
Sergio Cantone, euronews: We see that many Europeans are ready to take to the streets to protest against their own governments that are trying to cut welfare states everywhere in Europe…
Laszlo Andor, Commissioner: We went through a very tough economic crisis in the last two or three years and we still see the impact of that. Seven million jobs have been lost in the last two years in the European Union, and there are only a very few countries where there is a job growth at the moment. Of course people feel the pain, but we should see that this is not the failure of the social model. It has been the failure of the business model.
euronews: These are voices of concern; you say that governments should listen to them, but is it possible to give them what they are asking?
Andor: I would like to stress three basic principles: the first is the timing, not to rush with the expenditure cuts, even if it might be necessary at the end. The second one is that, even if there’s a pressing need for fiscal consolidation, [let’s] not only look at the possibilities of cutting expenditures, but also raising revenues. And the third principle is fairness: We have to see which part of society, which part of the economy, can bear a greater share of the burdens.
euronews: Do you think that the European governments are going the wrong way? Do you think that they are exaggerating when it comes to fiscal policies, budget policies and of course welfare state policies?
Andor: Well, it’s very difficult to strike the right balance, and I can see that some countries are probably in excess, and we are trying to encourage them to find the right balances, to start a fiscal consolidation in a consistent way, but at the same time respect the important issues to boost employment and protect the socially excluded and vulnerable groups.