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Conservative ECOFIN Council goes further down ‘austerity only’ dead end


15 Feb 2011

EU Finance Ministers met in Brussels on 15 February to discuss the direction of the new ‘European Semester’. The European semester is an instruments launched by the European Commission to strengthen the coordination of economic policies in Europe. But in the current political context, this coordination is only intended as a mean for financial surveillance and enforcing punishment for already weakened EU Member States. The PES denounces the approach to the crisis defended by the Commission – and endorsed today by EU Ministers – as an attack on the welfare state.


Today’s meeting of ECOFIN Ministers, dominated by right-wing representatives, focused on the European Commission’s proposals to enhance economic governance in the EU. The Annual Growth Survey, launched by the European Commission, and refered to by former Commission President Jacques Delors as “the most reactionary document ever produced by the Commission”, provided the first indications that the Conservatives were working from an ‘austerity bible’. As the first European Semester gets started, it was now up to the ECOFIN to review the direction Europe should take.

However, not only has the conservative-dominated group of ministers endorsed the Commission’s road to austerity, but they also are ask for further measures penalizing EU workers. For starters, the debate on pensions focused on raising the retirement age as well as reinforcing private pension’s schemes, thus steering away from public pensions systems. It also underlined the need to review unemployment benefits, which is conservative code for weakening employment protection legislation all over Europe.

PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said; “What have conservatives learnt from this crisis? Apparently nothing; they insist on imposing an obsolete neo-liberal model to the EU. They use the crisis as an excuse to further attack the welfare state and by doing so they punish thosealready suffering most from the effects of recession. By obsessing with austerity, conservatives continue to march down a dead end.”


Next steps

4-5 March: PES leaders meeting in Athens, co-hosted by the PES President, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, and the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou. 


For further information please contact Brian Synnott on +32 474 98 96 75 (

The PES brings together 33 socialist, social democratic, labour and progressive parties in the European Union and Norway, a parliamentary group in the European Parliament (184 MEPs) and in the Committee of the Regions (247 members) - plus observer and associate parties and organizations from all over Europe. ECOSY and PES Women are respectively the Youth and the Women's organizations of the PES.