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Group led by Thomas Piketty aims to fight right-wing populism in the EU

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By Alice Tidey
French economist and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Piketty
French economist and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Piketty   -   Copyright  Flickr/Fronteiras do Pensamento
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French economist Thomas Piketty launched a movement on Monday aiming to bring "fundamental changes" to the European Union to fight right-wing populism and rising inequalities.

Piketty and some 120 signatories including academics, MPs, MEPs and diplomats crafted what they say is a manifesto for the "democratisation of Europe".

"Following Brexit and the election of anti-European governments at the head of several member countries, it is no longer possible to continue as before," the signatories said.

Describing Europe as being "caught between movements whose programmes are confined to hunting down foreigners and refugees" and parties which "continue to consider that hardcore liberalism and the spread of competition to all... are enough to define a political project," they deplored a "lack of social ambition which leads to the feeling of abandonment".

"We cannot simply wait for the next departures [from] or further dismantling [of the EU] without making fundamental changes to present-day Europe," they added.

The group's core proposal is the creation of a European Assembly, filled with MPs from national assemblies and with an €800 billion annual budget – equivalent to 4 per cent of the EU's GDP, and four times the the bloc's current budget.

It argues that little of the current EU budget goes towards financing "common policies concerning the major challenges of our century".

To finance the budget, they want to create four European taxes – an additional 15 per cent levy on corporate profits, progressive taxes on income above €100,000 and on individual estates worth more than €1 million, and finally a tax on carbon emissions.

Half of the budget would be handed out as direct transfers to contributing states, a quarter would be earmarked for research, innovation and education, while the remaining 25 per cent would be split between funds to finance projects for sustainable forms of growth and the reception and integration of migrants.

The movement, billed as transpartisan, has no plan to present candidates in the upcoming European elections.

This article was amended. An earlier version erroneously described Thomas Piketty as a Nobel prize winner.