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The Subversive Summit – In These Times


The time is ripe—if not for the full-blown revolution, then at least for a transformative backlash to recenter the imperatives of social justice that have lately become so attenuated.

ZAGREB, CROATIA—What is often described in media, political and financial circles as the global “debt crisis” actually poses even more insidiously widespread dangers than the ubiquitous doom-filled reports commonly inform. “The greatest catastrophe threatening Greece and Europe is not the economic crisis,” says Costas Douzinas, professor of law at Birkbeck, University of London, “but the total destruction of the social bond, the way we see ourselves, the way we see our relation to the community. This is long-term. Economic crisis, fiscal deficits, can be restored in the medium term. But once you lose the social ethos, then there is no way back.”

That was the takeaway in May as scholars, writers, politicians and activists came together at Zagreb’s sixth annual Subversive Forum to plumb the depths of the current malaise, but also to propose remedies for the five years of European economic upheaval that has produced personal hardship, civic unrest, governmental instability and a general sense of paralysis.

For two weeks every year, Zagreb’s civic festival welcomes hordes of progressive lecturers and audiences to a program of films, debates, roundtable discussions and protest-planning sessions. Running past midnight in the city’s elegant 1920-vintage movie house Kino Europa, standing-room-only keynote speeches attract staunch partisans for advancing the interests of the public sphere against the authoritarian mediocracy that now prevails.

The cataclysm of human and social devastation in Europe is this generation’s defining moment. But calling it a debt crisis, as Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis explains, is like going to the hospital with advanced inoperable cancer and having the doctor diagnose your suffering as a pain crisis.

Yes there is pain, but the pain is symptomatic of bigger problems. The “debt crisis” is also a food crisis—people can’t afford to buy enough to eat. It’s a housing crisis, an education crisis, an unemployment crisis, an immigration crisis, a human rights crisis. In Greece, the New York Times reports, prostitution has surged 150 percent in the last two years as a direct result of social desperation, with supply-and-demand dynamics driving prices for sex work as low as five euros.

The Left rightly rejects austerity, despising it as collective punishment of citizens who had nothing to do with the financial collapse. Public health scholars David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu explain in The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills that such spending cuts drastically lower life expectancy due to a higher prevalence of suicide, HIV, alcoholism, heart disease and depression.

Underlying all these other crises is the steady transformation of the over-bureaucratized European Union into a democracy-free zone. Voter turnout is in decline (especially for European Parliament elections, but also in national contests), as constituencies manifest apathy or disenfranchisement. Decisions that people should be able to make for themselves and that are consequential for their lives—how much society spends on healthcare, on education, on defense—emanate instead from afar by EU administrators. A “Merkiavellian” regime, some call it; a secular empire of finance.

The principles of democratic self-determination are hamstrung by the powerful Troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission (the EU’s legislative and operational council)—which a disempowered citizenry increasingly views as an automaton that squelches democracy as it protects the interests of the power elite.

A teachable moment

But as many Europeans grow resigned to the “new normal,” a passionate movement of social democrats and subversive activists aims to recast a fatalistic narrative of inevitable capitulation. From the rubble of this financial catastrophe, they are extrapolating a systemic critique of how this mess came to pass and more importantly, how to use the collapse as a teachable moment. The time is ripe—if not for the full-blown revolution, then at least for a transformative backlash to recenter the imperatives of social justice that have lately become so attenuated.

The EU had been promoted as a strong “single market” (by many reckonings, the world’s largest economy) that would defuse Europe’s centuries of conflict: shared economic prosperity would generate cooperative unity. But clearly the EU has not delivered the promised transnational harmony. Capitalism is, after all, inherently a competition, which means there are winners and losers. Labor, always a weak player in this competition, loses the most in a race to attract foreign investment. Consequently, the labor movement fears a descent into what Slavoj Žižek calls a tyrannical “capitalism with Asian values.”

“Peripheral countries,” a label that has become so prevalent in the EU discourse, typifies the fault lines in the “union.” At the Subversive Forum, I noticed how keenly language highlights these tensions and fissures. Not surprisingly, people don’t like being thought of as peripheral—a lesson that might have been learned in light of the offense that the “third world” has always felt about that similarly condescending term. They also don’t appreciate being called PIIGS, the acronym that lumps together Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (the extra “i” doesn’t soften the blow). The term is outdated anyhow as more countries slide into severe downturns. With France and the United Kingdom falling into recession and Cyprus imploding, we can expect even coarser acronyms in the future.

It’s not just about nomenclature. The discourse of “othering” reveals old and supposedly effaced neocolonialist prejudices at their worst. In the minds of those who oppose humane terms of support, the “pigs” are lazy and corrupt, unsophisticated and out of date. They have brought their troubles on themselves and forced austerity will do them good.

The idea of Europe and even the word itself, has become toxic, unstable; co-opted by the bureaucrats’ failed vision, nobody knows exactly what it means. Is the UK in Europe? What about other EU but non-Eurozone countries—like Poland or Sweden? Is Iceland, the canary in the coal mine for financial meltdown, European? Euro-Asiatic hybrids such as Russia and Turkey? Non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland? Can a country be expelled from Europe?

“Europe” is uttered with a sneer or a spasm of abjection. “Euro,” which once denoted simply a strong cosmopolitan currency, is now a root that has spawned a more cynical vocabulary: Eurocritic, Euroskeptic, Europhobe. But if the establishment’s lexicon is becoming degraded, the radical retorts are more fiercely honed. “Union” and “unity” have been exposed as feckless in the face of European inability to sustain these, inspiring a more rousing synonym, “solidarity,” that resounds among those who are focused on social equality rather than financial technicalities. Paradoxically, the counter-rhetoric of the Left has expanded the context of the crisis by contracting the terminology. What was originally construed as “the global economic crisis” morphed into “the Eurozone crisis,” or “the Eurocrisis,” then became more tightly compressed into “the crisis,” and finally—stripping away everything else to convey simply a primordial vortex of personal agony and social decrepitude—the definite article dropped off, leaving just “crisis.”

“Crisis” has mobilized a radical critique of European capitalism. It’s not as simple as debating whether countries should leave the EU, or the euro—as bad as things are now, the alternative is probably catastrophic. But the Left has embarked upon a deep analysis of what sort of society has grown out of the EU’s financial autocracy. “Criminals, disguised as statesmen, were robbing us blind,” says Slovenian poet and critic Aleš Debeljak. “Crisis made us realize this truth.”

The radical mission is to uncover and expose the roots of this incompetence and institutional corruption, to question the motives and hidden agendas lurking beneath the “bankruptocracy” (another salient coinage), to educate and motivate suffering masses, and to reform the system.

“We can’t leave economic issues to the experts any longer,” says Maja Breznik, from the Slovenian Peace Institute. “It’s time for amateur investigations.”

These investigations, an end-run around the self-interested strategies of bankers and other EU cronies, begin from the premise that the vicious circle of debt is not the fault of immoderate spending by governments or households. Instead the primary goal of “recovery” has been a non sequitur: protecting the interests of private moneylenders and multinationals and refilling their coffers after their financial miscalculations and chicanery. The problem as it is being addressed bears little relation to the actual predicament, so society has plunged into deep recession.

As Europe tries to emerge from crisis, an exclusive focus on debt represents a class struggle designed by financiers to transfer losses from their books on to the taxpayers. Troubled countries are forced to sell off their economies to foreign investors. The Troika arranges bailouts under the harshest terms, with the heaviest burdens borne by agencies that support public welfare, because reducing social spending allows countries to pay more money, more quickly, back to the banks.

Privatization of the commons en- sues: everything that can be liquidated is sold, then rented back to the most disempowered classes. Much of the population is perpetually indebted and the idea of “permanent work” becomes a rarity, replaced by piece-work, part-time work and frequent lay-offs. The social contract has been broken.

We “amateur investigators” must ask questions about real value, as opposed to the merely monetary expressions of value that the Troika fetishizes. It seems reasonable to proclaim “bankrupt” (figuratively and literally) the discourse of valuation that culminated in the exotic, abstruse financial products that precipitated the crash.

It is our turn to open the discussion of what is valued from the perspective of the victims of fiscal malfeasance. (By “us” I refer to non-bankers, non-wealthy, non-functionaries and for good measure a healthy cadré of academic fellow travelers.) GDP itself is a subjective measure of value, a war-accounting mechanism that is not the only way to count. A euro is not just a euro: not every use of money is equally valuable. A different model of social accounting—one that focuses on the bottom, the workers, the poor and middle class, and starts with wages, taxes, social security—will produce a very different economic narrative than the one that has predominated for the last five years.

“We demand a new right,” argues Franco “Bifo” Berardi, a Marxist scholar from Milan’s Academy of Fine Arts, “The right to insolvency. We are not going to pay the tax. If I am insolvent, I don’t have money, so I won’t pay the debt.” Instead, there should be a moratorium on interest payments, some debt should be canceled and some repaid with a growth clause (as Germany did in the 1950s). Countries would pay as they grow, and as they can afford it.

Žižek—the Subversive Forum’s patron saint since its inception—warns that the radical Left has historically had a proclivity to sit on the sidelines: “They prefer sometimes not to take power so that when everything goes wrong they can write their books explaining in detail why everything had to go wrong. There is some deeply rooted masochism of the radical Left. Their best books are usually very convincing stories of failure.”

But today there is an especially high onus to take action, to engage in political reform. Leftist activists and politicians do have a concrete agenda for fixing the crisis. In Greece, defying the eulogies of democracy, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza coalition has shown impressive strength in the last few elections and stands within grasp of parliamentary victory and a majority coalition in the near future. Nearly destroyed by crisis, Greece may soon emerge as the most advanced site of resistance. “The future of Greece is the future of Europe,” Tsipras proclaims, providing a heartening reverberation for the slogan that protestors chant across the continent, “Nous sommes tous des grecs”: We are all Greeks.

The Left’s challenge is to reorganize in a more cooperative, collective way: reclaiming the commons, reappropriating the wealth that is now in the hands of the state and the banks, and reconstituting the social fabric that was destroyed by economic restructuring.

Political platforms like Syriza’s draw on a wealth of theoretical foundations and strategic visions for reform.

Erik Wright, a University of Wisconsin sociologist who wrote Envisioning Real Utopias, is one of many academic subversives who offered Zagreb audiences a sophisticated array of fresh ideas for transcending the status quo of capitalism and replacing it with an emancipatory alternative, a democratic egalitarian pathway that empowers people to take control of their own destinies. Wright described a range of innovations that can be introduced “inside of capitalism” but that embody non-capitalistic principles and more fully reflect the values of democracy: worker-owned cooperatives, participatory budgeting (where citizens help determine civic priorities), freely provided public services like transportation and libraries (which we can think of as anti-capitalist ways to give people mobility and books), and unobstructed access to the commons of intellectual property. Peer-to-peer collaborations like Wikipedia illustrate how a non-capitalist means of production can flourish within capitalism and ultimately displace capitalism altogether (as evidenced by the recent demise of the print edition of that imperialist icon, the Encyclopedia Britannica).

Urban farms organized through community land trusts can support food production divorced from agribusiness. Crowd-sourcing finance like Kickstarter sidesteps the entrenched hegemonies of cultural production. The gift economy in music from the Internet allows people to download songs for free and pay whatever they want. (Wright believes these musicians actually make more income than they would in a conventional sales model because they have created a more palatable moral economy with their fans.)

The crisis of capitalism offers, as a silver lining, the opportunity for us to reconceptualize more democratic and sustainable systems of social and commercial existence. It’s a moment that is uniquely receptive to new ideas, as the old ones have proven so worthless. A subversive smorgasbord can be created in the world as it is, prefiguring things that might be in the world as it could become. Are these just utopian fantasies? A questioner at Wright’s lecture asked whether a smattering of such small-scale interventions could really inspire fundamental social change, to which the sociologist responded sublimely: “We don’t know for sure. The day before Wikipedia was invented, it was impossible.”

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Dr. Randy Malamud is regents’ professor and chair of the department of English at Georgia State University. He is the author of eight books, including Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (NYU Press, 1998) and An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).   He can be reached at rmalamudgsuedu.

via The Subversive Summit – In These Times.

Debt, Austerity, Devastation: It’s Europe’s Turn


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Like plague in the 14th century, the scourge of debt has gradually migrated from South to North. Our 21st-century Yersinia pestis isn’t spread by flea-infested rats but by deadly, ideology-infested neoliberal fundamentalists. Once they had names like Thatcher or Reagan; now they sound more like Merkel or Barroso; but the message, the mentality and the medicine are basically the same. The devastation caused by the two plagues is also similar – no doubt fewer debt-related deaths in Europe today than in Africa three decades ago, but probably more permanent harm done to once-thriving European economies.

Faithful – and older – New Internationalist readers will recall the dread phrase ‘structural adjustment’. ‘Adjustment’ was the innocent-sounding term for the package of economic nostrums imposed by wealthy Northern creditor countries on the less-developed ones in what we then called the ‘Third World’. A great many of these countries had borrowed too much for too many unproductive purposes. Sometimes the leadership simply placed the loans in their private accounts (think Mobutu or Marcos) and put their countries in hock. Paying back in pesos, reals, cedis or other funny money was unacceptable: the creditors wanted dollars, pounds, deutschmarks…

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Anti-austerity protests in Spain

 

Furthermore, the Southerners had contracted their loans at variable interest rates, initially low but astronomical from 1981 when the Federal Reserve declared an end to the era of cheap money. When countries such as Mexico threatened default, panicked creditor-country treasury ministers, top bankers and international bureaucrats spent some sleepless weekends eating take-out and cobbling together emergency plans.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.* Decades later, serial crisis meetings still take place, this time in Brussels and, with minor variations, the response is identical: you only get a bailout in exchange for committing to a set of stringent requirements. These once echoed the neoliberal ‘Washington Consensus’; now they are more truthfully labelled ‘austerity packages’ but demand the same measures. Sign here, please, in blood.

For the South, the contracts said: ‘Cut back food production and grow cash-earning crops. Privatize your State enterprises and open up profit-making activities to foreign transnational corporations, especially in raw materials and extractive industries, forestry and fisheries. Drastically limit credit, cancel subsidies and social benefits. Make health and education paying propositions. Economize and earn hard currency through trade. Your prime responsibility is to your creditors, not your people.’

Now it’s Europe’s turn. The countries of southern Europe, plus Ireland, are relentlessly told: ‘You have been living beyond your means. Now pay.’ Governments meekly accept orders and their people often assume that their debt must be paid instantly because the debt of a sovereign State is just like the debt of a family. It’s not – a government accumulates debt by issuing bonds on financial markets. These bonds are bought mostly by institutional investors such as banks which receive an annual interest payment, low when the risk of default is low, higher when it isn’t. It’s absolutely normal, desirable and even necessary for a country to have a debt which will pose zero problems and generate many benefits if the money is prudently invested for the longer term in productive activities such as education, health, social benefits, solid infrastructure and the like.

Indeed, the higher the proportion of public spending in a government budget, the higher the standard of living and the more jobs are created – including private-sector jobs. This rule has been verified time and again since the correlation between public investment and national well-being was first noted in the late 19th century.

Obviously, borrowed money can also be wasted and spent stupidly and benefits can be distributed unfairly. The big family-State budget difference is that States don’t disappear like bankrupt companies. Productive, well-managed investment financed by government borrowing should be seen on the whole as A Good Thing.

The magic numbers

In 1992, European countries narrowly voted Yes to the Maastricht Treaty, which at the insistence of Germany contained two magic numbers, 3 and 60. Never allow a budget deficit greater than three per cent; never contract public debt greater than 60 per cent of your Gross Domestic Product (GDP).** Why not two or four per cent, 55 or 65 per cent? Nobody knows, except perhaps some ancient bureaucrats who were there, but these numbers have become the Law and the Prophets.

In 2010, two famous economists announced that beyond 90 per cent of GDP, debt would plunge a country into trouble and its GDP would contract. That sounds logical because interest payments would take a bigger chunk out of the budget. But in April 2013, a North American PhD candidate tried to replicate their results and found he couldn’t. Using their figures, he got a positive result for GDP which would still rise by more than two per cent per annum. The famous, if red-faced, twosome had to admit they were Excel victims and had misplaced a comma.

Even the International Monetary Fund has confessed to similar mistakes, this time on the austerity cuts issue. We now know, because the Fund was honest enough to tell us, that cuts would hurt the GDP by two to three times more than it initially foresaw. Europe should go easy, says the IMF, and not ‘drive the economy with the brakes on’. The magic 60 per cent of GDP debt limit is no more sacred than the three per cent deficit limit; yet policies remain the same, because the neoliberal hawks seize upon every scrap of dubious evidence that seems to promote their cause.

We are faced with two basic questions. The first is why did the debts of European countries rise so steeply after the crisis struck in 2007? In just four years, between 2006 and 2010, debts escalated by more than 75 per cent in Britain and Greece, by 59 per cent in Spain and by fully 276 per cent in all-time champion Ireland, where the government simply announced it would assume responsibility for all the debts of all the private Irish banks. The Irish people would henceforward be held responsible for the irresponsibility of Irish bankers. Britain did the same, though in lesser measure. Just as profits are privatized, losses are socialized.

So citizens pay through austerity, whereas bankers and other investors who bought the country’s bonds or toxic financial products contribute nothing. After the 2007 crisis, the GDP of European countries dropped by an average five per cent and governments had to compensate. Escalating business failures and mass unemployment also meant more expenditures for governments just when they were taking in less income from taxes.

The New Morality

Economic stagnation is expensive – higher expenditure and lower revenue add up to a single answer: borrow more. Saving the banks and taking the consequences of the crisis they created are the fundamental reason for the debt crisis – and consequently for harsh austerity today. People were not ‘living beyond their means’ but the New Morality is clearly ‘Punish the Innocent, Reward the Guilty’.

This is no defence of stupid or corrupt policies such as allowing the Spanish housing bubble to inflate or Greek politicians to hire masses of new civil servants after each election. The Greeks have a bloated military budget and inexcusably refuse to tax the great shipping magnates and the Church – the biggest property owner in the country. But if your bathtub leaks and the dining room paint is peeling, do you burn down your house? Or do you fix the plumbing and repaint?

The human consequences of austerity are inescapable and well known: pensioners search through rubbish bins at mid-month hoping to find a meal; talented, well-educated Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards flee their countries as unemployment for their age group approaches 50 per cent; unbearable stress is laid on families; violence against women increases as poverty and distress rise; hospitals lack essential medicines and personnel, schools decline, public services deteriorate or disappear. Nature takes the brunt as well: nothing is invested in reversing the climate crisis or halting environmental destruction – it’s too expensive. Like everything else, we can’t do it now.

We know these outcomes, the results of what Angela Merkel calls ‘expansionary austerity’ policies. This neoliberal theory claims that markets will be ‘reassured’ by tough policies and reinvest in the newly disciplined countries concerned. This hasn’t happened. Pictures of Merkel adorned with swastikas are appearing throughout southern Europe.

Many Germans think they are helping Greece – and they don’t want to anymore. In fact, virtually all the bailout money has taken a circuitous route: EU government contributions made through the European Stability Mechanism have been channelled via the Greek Central Banks and private banks right back to British, German and French banks that had bought up Greek Eurobonds to get a higher yield. It would be simpler to give European taxpayers’ money directly to the banks, except that said taxpayers might notice. Why make an ongoing psycho-drama over two per cent (Greece) or 0.4 per cent (Cyprus) of the European economy? A cynic might say: ‘Easy. To ensure Ms Merkel’s re-election in September.’

The second basic question is: why do we continue to apply policies that are harmful and don’t work? One can look at this self-created disaster in two ways. Eminent prize-winning economists like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz believe that the European leadership is brain-dead, ignorant of economics and needlessly committing economic suicide. Others note that the cuts conform exactly to the desires of such entities as the European Roundtable of Industrialists or BusinessEurope: cut wages and benefits, weaken unions, privatize everything in sight and so on. As inequalities have soared, those at the top have done nicely. There are now more ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ with a much greater collective fortune than in 2008 at the height of the crisis. Five years ago there were 8.6 million HNWIs worldwide with a pile of liquid assets of $39 trillion. Today, they are 11 million strong with assets of $42 trillion. Small businesses are failing in droves, but the largest companies are sitting on huge piles of cash and taking full advantage of tax havens. They see no reason to stop there.

This is not a crisis for everyone and the European leadership is no more stupid than its counterparts elsewhere. It is, however, entirely subservient to the desires of finance and the largest corporations. Certainly, neoliberal ideology plays a key role in its programme but serves especially to emit thick smokescreens and pseudo-explanations and justifications so that people will believe There Is No Alternative. Wrong: the banks could have been socialized and turned into public utilities, like other utilities that run on public money; tax havens closed down, taxes levied on financial transactions and many other remedies applied. But such thoughts are heretical to neoliberalism (although 11 Eurozone countries will start taxing financial transactions in 2014).

I am a fervent European and want Europe to thrive, but not this Europe. Against our will we have been plunged into class warfare. The only answer for citizens is knowledge and unity. What the one per cent has imposed, the 99 per cent can reverse. But we’d better be quick about it: time is running out.

Susan George is Board President of the Transnational Institute and author of 16 books, most recently Whose Crisis, Whose Future? and How to Win the Class War, on her website in June for electronic download and print on demand along with six ‘Susan George Classics’.

* ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’

** Public debt is money owed by a government in the form of loans obtained on the financial markets rather than other forms of lending.

via Debt, Austerity, Devastation: It’s Europe’s Turn.

Austerity And Resistance: The Politics Of Labour In The Eurozone Crisis


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Europe is haunted by austerity. Public sectors across the European Union (EU) have been cut back and working class gains from the post-war period seriously undermined. In this article, I will assess the causes of the crisis, its implications for workers and discuss the politics of labour in response to the Eurozone crisis.

The underlying dynamics of the Eurozone crisis

Current problems go right back to the global financial crisis starting in 2007 with the run on the Northern Rock bank in the United Kingdom (UK) and reaching a first high point with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Two major consequences of the crisis can be identified. First, states indebted themselves significantly as a result of bailing out failing banks and propping up the financial system. Second, against the background of high levels of uncertainty financial markets froze. Banks and financial institutions ceased lending to each other as well as industrial companies. Countries too found it increasingly difficult to re-finance their national debts. The Eurozone crisis, also known as the sovereign debt crisis, commenced.

Nevertheless, this analysis only scratches the surface of the causes of the crisis. The fundamental dynamics underlying the crisis have to be related to the uneven nature of the European political economy. On the one hand, Germany has experienced an export boom in recent years, with almost 60 per cent of its exports going to other European countries (Trading Economics, 10 May 2013). Germany’s trade surplus is even more heavily focused on Europe. 60 per cent are with other Euro countries and about 85 per cent are with all EU members together (de Nardis, 2 December 2010). However, such a growth strategy cannot be adopted by everybody. Some countries also have to absorb these exports, and this is what many of the peripheral countries which are now in trouble, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, have done. They, in turn, cannot compete in the free trade Internal Market of the EU due to lower productivity rates. Germany’s export boom has resulted in super profits, which then require new opportunities for profitable investment. State bonds of peripheral countries as well as construction markets in Ireland and Spain seemed to provide safe investment opportunities. In turn, these investments led to yet more exports from Germany to these countries and yet further super profits in search of investment opportunities.

Who is being rescued?

It is often argued in the media that citizens of richer countries would now have to pay for citizens of indebted countries. Cultural arguments of apparently ‘lazy Greek’ workers as the cause of the crisis are put forward. Nevertheless, this is clearly not the case. Greek workers are amongst those who work the longest hours in Europe (BBC, 26 February 2012). In any case, it is not the Greek, Portuguese, Irish or Cypriot citizens and their health and education systems, which are being rescued. It is banks, who organised the lending of super profits to peripheral countries, which are exposed to private and national debt in these countries. For example, German and French banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt, British banks to Irish debt (The Guardian, 17 June 2011).

What is the purpose of the bailout programmes?

Is the purpose of the bailout programmes to ensure the maintenance of essential public services in Europe’s periphery? Clearly not. On the contrary, the Troika consisting of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands cuts in public finances precisely for services such as education and health care. Is the purpose to assist peripheral countries in re-gaining competitiveness? Again, this too is clearly not the objective. The bailout programmes do not include any industrial policy projects.

The true nature of the bailout programmes is visible in their conditionality, making support dependent on austerity policies including: (1) cuts in funding of essential public services; (2) cuts in public sector employment; (3) push towards privatisation of state assets; and (4) undermining of industrial relations and trade union rights through enforced cuts in minimum wages and a further liberalisation of labour markets. Hence, the real purpose of the bailout programmes is to restructure political economies and to open up the public sector as new investment opportunities for private finance. The balance of power is shifted further from labour to capital in this process. Employers, ultimately, use the crisis in order to strengthen their position vis-à-vis workers, facilitating exploitation.

Are German workers the winners due to the export boom?

In contrast to general assumptions, German workers have not benefitted from the current situation. German productivity increases have, to a significant extent, resulted from drastic downward pressure on wages and working related conditions.

“Germany has been unrelenting in squeezing its own workers throughout this period. During the last two decades, the most powerful economy of the eurozone has produced the lowest increases in nominal labour costs, while its workers have systematically lost share of output. EMU[2] has been an ordeal for German workers” (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 4).

The Agenda 2010 and here especially the so-called Hartz IV reform, implemented in the early 2000s, constitutes the largest cut in, and restructuring of, the German welfare system since the end of World War II. In other words, Germany was more successful than other Eurozone countries in cutting back labour costs. “The euro is a ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policy for Germany, on condition that it beggars its own workers first” (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 30).

Hence, while the mainstream media regularly portray the crisis as a conflict between Germany and peripheral countries, the real conflict here is between capital and labour. And this conflict is taking place across the EU as the economic crisis is used across Europe to justify cuts. In the UK, although not in the position of countries such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland, people too are faced with constant further cuts and restructuring including privatisations in the health and education sectors as well as attacks on employment rights. In short, across the EU, employers abuse the crisis to cut back workers’ post-war gains. The crisis provides capital with the rationale to justify cuts, they would otherwise be unable to implement.

What possibilities for labour to resist restructuring?

Considering that austerity is a European-wide phenomenon, pushed by Brussels but equally individual national governments, it will remain important that trade unions combine resistance to neo-liberal restructuring at the European level with resistance at the national level. To declare solidarity with Greek workers is a good initiative by German and British unions, for example. Nevertheless, the more concrete support is resisting restructuring at home. Any defeat of austerity in one of the EU member states will assist similar struggles elsewhere.

When thinking about alternative responses to the crisis, short-term measures can be distinguished from medium- and long-term measures. Immediately, it will be important that German trade unions push for higher salary increases at home so that the German domestic market absorbs more goods, which are currently being exported. Along similar lines is the proposal by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) for an economic stimulus, investment and development programme for Europe. This new Marshall plan is designed as an investment and development programme over a 10-year period and consists of a mix of institutional measures, direct public sector investment, investment grants for companies and incentives for consumer spending (DGB 2013). Neo-Keynesian measures of this type will ease the immediate pressure on European economies. However, they will not question the power structures, underlying the European political economy.

A victorious outcome in the struggle against austerity ultimately depends on a change in the balance of power in society. The establishment of welfare states and fairer societies were based on the capacity of labour to balance the class power of capital (Wahl 2011). Overcoming austerity will, therefore, require a strengthening of labour vis-à-vis capital. As Lapavitsas notes, “a radical left strategy should offer a resolution of the crisis that alters the balance of social forces in favour of labour and pushes Europe in a socialist direction” (Lapavitsas 2011: 294). Hence, in the medium-term, it will be essential to intervene more directly in the financial sector. As part of bailouts, many private banks have been nationalised, as for example the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK. However, they have been allowed to continue operating as if they were private banks. Little state direction has been imposed. It will be important to move beyond nationalisation towards the socialisation of banks to ensure that banks actually operate according to the needs of society. Such a step would contribute directly to changing the balance of power in society in favour of labour.

In the long run, however, even the change in power balance between capital and labour will not be enough. Capitalist exploitation is rooted in the way the social relations of production are set up around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production. Exploitation, therefore, can only be overcome if the manner in which production is organised is being changed itself.

[1] This article was first published in Norwegian on radikalportal.no

[2] European Monetary Union

via Austerity And Resistance: The Politics Of Labour In The Eurozone Crisis.

Austerity and what your Government Should be doing for You


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If all nations are in debt and all citizens are to be forced into lifelong austerity to pay off “their” creditors then the most important question in the world becomes:
Identifying the creditors and asking why they have precedence over the  lives of people who did not create this problem.

 Think clearly about this for a moment

Austerity” means your lives and your  children’s lives will be less free for decades. Since all nations are “in debt” then their must at its core  a group of private creditors benefiting from this situation.
Government’s everywhere have the moral right as representatives of the people to weigh and balance private citizens rights against those of a small minority of other citizens. . It is moral and right for the governments to identify the core group of private people hiding behind all the debt shell entities who are supposedly “owed” money by these countries citizens.Those citizens likely never voted for the debts anyway.

Austerity for millions is not an acceptable situation for for the ordinary Citizen why should he  recognize, take on the ill borrowed, non voted, “debts”  of others . Why is it the  politicians serve the interests of the  “creditors” rather than the people they are purported to represent.
Millions of people should not be forced into a lifelong form of loss of freedom (which is what “Austerity” really means on an individual level for each citizen) as a result of putting false debts unto the backs of their governments.

So folks time to get off your ass and make your Government work for you

The Negative Impact of Austerity on Public Health


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As the Greek government implemented austerity measures in response to a financial crisis, Greek suicide numbers doubled last year. And in London, tuberculosis rates grew by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011, a result of increased homelessness and drug use during the Great Recession. In “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills,” Oxford political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an epidemiologist at Stanford University‘s Prevention Research Center, argue that austerity measures have public health consequences, including HIV outbreaks and increased rates of depression, suicide and heart attacks. The authors recently spoke with U.S. News about the relationship between fiscal policy and public health. Excerpts:

Why connect public health with austerity?

Basu: In the 1990s, there was an astounding series of studies that said, What if everybody had perfect health insurance? How many premature deaths in the U.S. among people less than 75 years of age could we prevent? And it turned out that the answer was only about 15 to 20 percent. The other 80 to 85 percent can’t be affected by medical care, meaning that health doesn’t start on the exam table in the ICU, but in our homes, in our neighborhoods, whether we smoke or drink too much, and the quality of our air, food and safety. One of the biggest determinants therein is the state of the economy and, in particular, whether we have safety nets during hard times.

How does austerity lead to a loss of life?

Stuckler: When effective services and supports that sustain health are withdrawn, they pose a direct risk. A clear example can be seen in Greece today. To meet the deficit reduction targets, the health sector in Greece has been cut by more than 40 percent. HIV infections have more than doubled as effective needle exchange program budgets were cut in half. There was a return of malaria after mosquito spraying programs to prevent the disease were also cut, covering the southern part of the country. Deep reductions of a pharmaceutical budget led several pharmaceutical companies to leave the country. There was subsequently a 50 percent increase in people reporting being unable to access medically necessary care.

What surprised you most in your research?

Basu: That there are some very well-researched, effective programs out there that can benefit both public health and the economy, but the academic research is so far afield from the public discourse. A lot of the discourse just assumes that the only way to reduce deficits is to cut budgets in the short term, and it’s quite hard to explain why that’s a bad idea and actually increases long-term budgets. That counterintuitive problem has created a lot of fallacies and makes it difficult to translate research into practice.

Do you expect to see public health consequences to spending cuts in the U.S.?

Basu: We already see them if we compare state-based responses to different kinds of unemployment crises since 2007. We can, controlling for pre-existing conditions, compare states that underwent more extensive budget cuts versus those that didn’t; and [we] saw a rise in suicide among those who were denied unemployment benefits.

Which current policies are most harmful to public health?

Basu: I think the indiscriminate cuts to safety net programs among the poor are particularly easy to implement and particularly dangerous for public health. [And] cuts to our nation’s best defense system against epidemics, the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] are particularly dangerous. We recently had the fungal meningitis outbreak, and without the CDC, it would’ve been hard to conceive of how we would’ve protected ourselves from having a dramatic expansion of that epidemic.

Are there any economic policies that don’t have daunting human costs?

Basu: In many areas of the world, we see pretty effective policies that simultaneously improve health and the economy. For example, in Sweden and Finland there are active labor market programs. They help enroll the newly unemployed into supportive job retraining and re-entry, and work with both firms and the newly unemployed. As a side effect, they seem to reduce suicide, depression and alcoholism, while also stimulating the economy and being, in some cases, net cost-saving.

Why should President Obama read your book?

Stuckler: The book shows that there is an alternative to austerity that’s grounded in evidence. And when governments pursue it, they can pave the way to a happier and healthier future for people. By making smart, evidence-based investments, not only is it possible to protect people’s most valuable asset – their health – but to chart faster economic recoveries and address fundamental threats of deficits and debt. A simple answer is because his choices and those of Congress are matters of life and death for millions of Americans.

via The Negative Impact of Austerity on Public Health – US News and World Report.

How Austerity Has Failed


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Austerity has failed. It turned a nascent recovery into stagnation. That imposes huge and unnecessary costs, not just in the short run, but also in the long term: the costs of investments unmade, of businesses not started, of skills atrophied, and of hopes destroyed.

What is being done here in the UK and also in much of the eurozone is worse than a crime, it is a blunder. If policymakers listened to the arguments put forward by our opponents, the picture, already dark, would become still darker.

How Austerity Aborted Recovery

Austerity came to Europe in the first half of 2010, with the Greek crisis, the coalition government in the UK, and above all, in June of that year, the Toronto summit of the group of twenty leading countries. This meeting prematurely reversed the successful stimulus launched at the previous summits and declared, roundly, that “advanced economies have committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013.”

This was clearly an attempt at austerity, which I define as a reduction in the structural, or cyclically adjusted, fiscal balance—i.e., the budget deficit or surplus that would exist after adjustments are made for the ups and downs of the business cycle. It was an attempt prematurely and unwisely made. The cuts in these structural deficits, a mix of tax increases and government spending cuts between 2010 and 2013, will be around 11.8 percent of potential GDP in Greece, 6.1 percent in Portugal, 3.5 percent in Spain, and 3.4 percent in Italy. One might argue that these countries have had little choice. But the UK did, yet its cut in the structural deficit over these three years will be 4.3 percent of GDP.

What was the consequence? In a word, “dire.”

In 2010, as a result of heroic interventions by the monetary and fiscal authorities, many countries hit by the crisis enjoyed surprisingly good recoveries from the “great recession” of 2008–2009. This then stopped (see figure 1). The International Monetary Fund now thinks, perhaps optimistically, that the British economy will expand by 1.8 percent between 2010 and 2013. But it expanded by 1.8 percent between 2009 and 2010 alone. The economy has now stagnated for almost three years. Even if the IMF is right about a recovery this year, it will be 2015 before the economy reaches the size it was before the crisis began.

The picture in the eurozone is worse: its economy expanded by 2 percent between 2009 and 2010. It is now forecast to expand by a mere 0.4 percent between 2010 and 2013. Austerity has put the crisis-hit countries through a wringer, with huge and ongoing recessions. Rates of unemployment are more than a quarter of the labor force in Greece and Spain (see figure 2).

When the economies of many neighboring countries contract simultaneously, the impact is far worse since one country’s reduced spending on imports is another country’s reduced export demand. This is why the concerted decision to retrench was a huge mistake. It aborted the recovery, undermining confidence in our economy and causing long-term damage.

Why Fiscal Policy

Why is strong fiscal support needed after a financial crisis? The answer for the crisis of recent years is that, with the credit system damaged and asset prices falling, short-term interest rates quickly fell to the lower boundary—that is, they were cut to nearly zero. Today, the highest interest rate offered by any of the four most important central banks is half a percent. Used in conjunction with monetary policy, aggressive and well-designed fiscal stimulus is the most effective response to the huge decrease in spending by individuals as they try to save money in order to pay down debt. This desire for higher savings is the salient characteristic of the post–financial crisis economy, which now characterizes the US, Europe, and Japan. Together these three still make up more than 50 percent of the world economy.

Of course, some think that neither monetary nor fiscal policy should be used. Instead, they argue, we should “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” In other words, sell everything until they reach a rock-bottom price at which point, supposedly, the economy will readjust and spending and investing will resume. That, according to Herbert Hoover, was the advice he received from Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, as America plunged into the Great Depression. Mellon thought government should do nothing. This advice manages to be both stupid and wicked. Stupid, because following it would almost certainly lead to a depression across the advanced world. Wicked, because of the misery that would follow.

Austerity in the Eurozone

Some will insist that the eurozone countries had no alternative: they had to retrench.

This is true in the sense that members have limited sovereignty, wed as they are to a single currency, and had to adapt to the dysfunctional eurozone policy regime. Yet it did not have to be this way.

1. The creditor countries, particularly Germany, could have recognized that they were enjoying incredibly low interest rates on their own public debt partly because of the crises in the vulnerable countries. They could have shared some of this windfall they enjoyed with those under pressure.

2. The needed adjustment could have been made far more symmetrical, with strong action in creditor countries to expand demand.

3. The European Central Bank could have offered two years earlier the kind of open-ended support for debt of hard-pressed countries that it made available in the summer of 2012.

4. The funds made available to cushion the crisis could have been substantially larger.

5. The emphasis could then have been more on structural reforms, such as easing labor regulations and union protections that restrain hiring and firing and raise labor costs, and less on fiscal retrenchment in the form of reduced spending. Reduced labor costs could have made these nations’ export industries more competitive and encouraged domestic hiring.

It is possible to admit all this and yet argue that without deep slumps, the necessary pressure for adjustment in labor costs that is inherent in the adoption of a single currency (which is a modern version of the gold-standard-type mechanism that once ruled the advanced nations and helped bring on the Great Depression) would not have existed.

This, too, is in general not true.

1. In Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, at least, the private sector was in such a deep crisis that additional downward pressure as a result of rapid fiscal retrenchment simply added insult—and more unemployment—to deep injury.

2. In Italy, the pressure from years of semi-stagnation, with many more to come, would probably have been sufficient to restructure the labor markets, to bring about lower labor costs, provided structural reforms of the labor market were carried out, measures allowing companies to reduce their workforces and adjust wages more easily.

In short, the scale of the austerity was unnecessary and ill-timed. This is now widely admitted.

Austerity in the UK

The UK certainly did have alternatives—a host of them. It could have chosen from a wide range of different fiscal policies. The government could, for example, have:

1. Increased public investment, rather than halving it (initially decided by Labour), when it enjoyed zero real interest rates on long-term borrowing.

2. It could have cut taxes.

3. It could have slowed the pace of reduction in current spending.

It could, in brief, have preserved more freedom to respond to the exceptional circumstances it confronted.

Why did the government not do so?

1. It believed, and was advised to believe, that monetary policy alone could do the job. But monetary policy is hard to calibrate when interest rates are already so low (at or close to zero) and potentially damaging particularly in the form of asset bubbles. Fiscal policy is not only more direct, but it can also be more easily calibrated and, when the time comes, more easily reversed.

2. The government believed that its fiscal plans gave it credibility and so would deliver lower long-term interest rates. But what determines long-term interest rates for a sovereign country with a floating exchange rate is the expected future short-term interest rates. These rates are determined by the state of the economy, not that of the public finances. In the emergency budget of June 2010, the cumulative net borrowing of the public sector between 2011 and 2015–2016 had been forecast to be £322 billion; in the June 2013 budget, this borrowing is forecast at £539.4 billion, that is, 68 percent more. Has this failure destroyed confidence and so raised long-term interest rates on government bonds? No.

3. It believed that high government deficits would crowd out private spending—that is, the need of the government to borrow would leave less room for private borrowing. But after a huge financial crisis, there is no such crowding out because private firms are reluctant to invest, and consumers are reluctant to spend, in a weak economic environment.

4. It argued that the UK had too much debt. But the UK government started the crisis with close to its lowest net public debt relative to gross domestic product in three hundred years. It still has a debt ratio much lower than its long-term historical average (which is about 110 percent of GDP).

5. The government argued that the UK could not afford additional debt. But that, of course, depends on the cost of debt. When debt is as cheap as it is today, the UK can hardly afford not to borrow. It is impossible to believe that the country cannot find public investments—the cautious IMF itself urges more spending on infrastructure—that will generate positive real returns. Indeed, with real interest rates negative, borrowing is close to a “free lunch.”

6. The government now believes that the UK has very little excess capacity. But even the most pessimistic analysts believe it has some. Of course, the right policy would address both demand and supply, together. But I, for one, cannot accept that the UK is fated to produce 16 percent less than its pre-crisis trend of growth suggested. Yes, some of that output was exaggerated. There is no reason to believe so much was.

Assessment of Austerity

We, on this side of the argument, are certainly not stating that premature austerity is the only reason for weak economies: the financial crisis, the subsequent end of the era of easy credit, and the adverse shocks are crucial. But austerity has made it far more difficult than it needed to be to deal with these shocks.

The right approach to a crisis of this kind is to use everything: policies that strengthen the banking system; policies that increase private sector incentives to invest; expansionary monetary policies; and, last but not least, the government’s capacity to borrow and spend.

Failing to do this, in the UK, or failing to make this possible, in the eurozone, has helped cause a lamentably weak recovery that is very likely to leave long-lasting scars. It was a huge mistake. It is not too late to change course.

via How Austerity Has Failed by Martin Wolf | The New York Review of Books.

Does austerity promote economic growth?


The IMF and others impose austerity measures on government to pay down their debt and to increase investor confidence in countries. The result over the longer term is supposed to be increased investor confidence, a more competitive economy for the country and hence economic growth. But is the empirical evidence or even theory supportive of this viewpoint?

First in terms of what one would expect in theory. Austerity would be expected to decrease demand but if there is decreased demand then less production is needed to fill that demand. Therefore other things being equal austerity would tend to decrease production rather than increase it.

Harvard economist Alberto Alesina shows that government debt reduction by expenditure cuts and tax increases does not always have negative effects. However an IMF study of 17 countries that implemented austerity plans in the last 30 years showed that debt reduction plans that were intended to reduce debt and lead to prosperity on the whole did not do so. Some of the positive results in the earlier study were cases where the aim of austerity was sometimes to cool down an overheated economy and this was often successful with growth continuing but at a less heated rate.

The overall findings of the IMF study of austerity policies designed to reduce debt were that consumption expenditure declined and the economy was weaker. This is what one would expect. Greece is a good empirical example of where this is happening with the country actually going into a recession. Some critics question the results but nevertheless the empirical data give at least some support to critics of austerity programs who claim that stimulus rather than austerity is the more sensible policy over the short term to help an economy grow and produce more revenues to then pay down debt. For more see this article.

Given that the IMF’s own study shows that their  policies reduce economic growth why would they continue to recommend them. Because these policies do please investors. They weaken labor and lower labor costs. The point is not to grow the economy but to increase the power of capital over labor. The policies do that. Economic growth per se is not the aim but growth in profits. In the longer term after labor is crushed, pension benefits eroded, the safety net mostly gone, then as the theory has it the country will be more competitive, Perhaps investors may return. Of course many workers may have long ago migrated to areas with better prospects. Ireland apparently is already seeing renewed emigration as the boom there has given way to austerity.

via kenthink: Does austerity promote economic growth?.

Austerity Today -Economic recovery ‘will take 20 years’


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Economic recovery ‘will take 20 years’, warns Britain’s top civil servant


Daily Mail
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said the austerity drive has not gone far enough and stressed it will continue for decades. He said there was a ‘very long way to go’ before the economy returns to the same level as before the 2007 recession. ‘This 
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Portugal’s Coalition Splinters on Austerity Fatigue: Euro Credit
Bloomberg
Portuguese borrowing costs topped 7 percent for the first time this year after two ministers quit, signaling the government will struggle to implement further budget cuts as its bailout program enters its final 12 months. Secretary of State for 
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NEWS ANALYSIS: Doubts as Portugal’s austerity plan changes hands
BDlive
THE resignation of the main architect of Portugal’s austerity policies has sparked concern over the country’s ability to complete its European Union (EU)International Monetary Fund (IMF) bail-out programme. Analysts say the departure on Monday of 
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Andrew Palmer: Austerity opens the door to new kind of regeneration
Yorkshire Post
WHEN most of us think of “regeneration”, we picture large, government-backed programmes to revitalise rundown areas – the waterfront in Hull, for example, or the Leeds riverfront. What we face now, though, is a new economic reality which means these 
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Redesigning for austerity – but politics get in the way
Public Service
And the director who saw the storm coming and had a plan jumped ship and now heads health commissioning – from which position he could be better placed to redesign for austerity. Blair McPherson is author of ‘Equipping managers for an uncertain future 
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Feeling the pinch in austerity-hit Portugal
BBC News
The resignation of two key ministers has left many questioning whether Portugal’s right-of-centre government, which has enthusiastically embraced austerity measures, can survive much longer. But in a statement to the nation on Tuesday night, Prime 
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Portuguese government at risk of collapse over austerity
EUobserver.com
Gaspar, whose replacement, Maria Luis Albuquerque starts work on Wednesday (3 July), identified increasing public disaffection with the government’s austerity drive as the reason for his resignation. But Albuquerque, who has been promoted from treasury 
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EU to ease deficit rules to allow some investments: Barroso
Hindu Business Line
The decision comes amid a wider debate over the austerity-driven policies used to tackle the EU’s economic crisis, as the worst-affected countries and left-wing parties argue that austerity is throttling growth and failing to tackle soaring unemployment.
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London midday: Stocks hit by political uncertainty, economic data
ShareCast
Resignations of both the Portuguese Finance Minister and Foreign Minister over the last few days have sparked concerns all over the Eurozone, as anti-austerity rallies gather support. Portugal’s 10-year bond yields have now surged above 8.0% for the 
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The Socialist 3 July 2013 Tories – cuts, Lib Dems – cuts, Labour – cuts
Socialist Party
And when Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced another £11.5 billion in cuts and extendingausterity past the next general election, rather than saying ‘we will tear up this spending review if we win power’, Labour promised to abide by it. These 
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European Stocks Tumble; Portugal’s Political Woes Weigh
Wall Street Journal
European stocks opened sharply lower Wednesday as a mounting political crisis in Portugal sparked worries over whether the country would be able to continue the austerity measures dictated by its acceptance of an international bailout two years ago.
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Portuguese Uncertainty Knocks The Euro
Wall Street Journal
Portugal’s government was thrown into turmoil Tuesday when Foreign Minister Paulo Portas followed Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar’s lead and resigned in protest over the country’s austerity policies, increasing the uncertainty over the future of the 
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New warehouses hit Ocado profits
Belfast Telegraph
Slashing Eurozone austerity could boost growth: report new. Cutting back on austerity across the eurozone would boost growth by 1% next year, consultants Ernst & Young has forecast. Smith brothers sell e-tee website BRS Golf new. Two brothers from 
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Portuguese markets in turmoil on gov’t confusion
Montana Standard
Portugal’s financial markets are in turmoil amid growing concerns over the future of the country’s coalition government and its ability to pursue the austerity measures demanded by creditors. While the country’s main PSI 20 stock index tumbled 5.4 
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Portuguese stocks, bonds slide amid confusion over future of government
Washington Post
Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho defied calls to resign late Tuesday but he was running out of options to keep his center-right coalition government together following the resignations of key ministers in a spat over austerity. A protester holds an 
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Heywood: 20-Year Battle To Fix UK Economy
Orange UK News
Britain is in a “20-year generational battle” to rescue the economy, according to the country’s most senior civil servant. Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has suggested drastic austeritymeasures implemented by the coalition may have to go further.
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Portugal, oil in focus as stock futures retreat
USA TODAY
In Europe, markets moved sharply lower as Portugal’s foreign minister resigned amid a dispute over the nation’s austerity program, the Wall Street Journal reported. That follows a surprise departure for the country’s finance minister on Tuesday 
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Lenders Pressuring Greece Over Austerity Pledges
Voice of America
The lenders – Greece’s European neighbors, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – have been meeting with government officials in Athens. They are demanding that the government make progress on its austerity pledges ahead of 
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New Study Dispels Myths of European Austerity
OpenMarket.org
Cries throughout the media of “savage austerity” notwithstanding, only a handful of European countries have actually implemented austerity in the true sense of the term: reducing both public spending and taxation. On the other hand, most countries in 
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Portugal gov’t in peril as another minister quits
TheNewsTribune.com
Portugal’s government was in danger of collapse Tuesday after Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior party in the center-right coalition government, resigned over the bailed-out country’s austerity policies. By BARRY HATTON; Associated 
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Rug buyers look for round rugs in austere times
PRWire (press release)
Rug buyers across Australia are looking to make their homes cosier as they hunker down for a period of relative economic austerity. That’s the view of the team at The Bespoke Rug Company (www.bespokerugs.com.au) Australia’s leading retailer of 
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Bailed-out Portugal’s finance minister resigns
Fresno Bee
Workers’ unions called a 24-hour general strike to protest the government’s austerity measures with public transport and government offices expected to be the worst-hit services. The banner reads in Portuguese: “The street is our. Nothing to lose”.
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The Tories must beware these feelings of irrational exuberance
Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
We have had enough of five years of austerity and doubt. All around there are signs that the economy is stirring, that the combination of low interest rates and high employment is beginning to encourage consumer activity. Even beyond the powerhouse of 
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There are few bright spots for them in last week’s spending review by George 
Third Sector
There are one or two other bright spots for the sector in the sixth year of austerity announced by George Osborne in last week’s spending review, which was in effect the opening salvo of the next general election campaign. The continuing expansion of 
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Portuguese Finance Minister’s Exit Elicits Few Gasps
Wall Street Journal (blog)
Yields on Portuguese government bonds ticked up a bit to 6.42% after the unexpected resignation of Mr. Gaspar–the architect of Portugal’s austerity plan–but volumes were low, and the news didn’t prompt predictions of outright default. Instead 
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Democratic Deficit Scolds Get Desperate and Weird
New York Magazine
Liberals may complain about austerity, but, they argue, “we haven’t had an austerity budget.” Cowan and Kessler’s evidence for this — that the federal government spent more, on average, during Obama’s first term than during George W. Bush’s second 
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Lapid: Deficit could cause collapse
Globes
Finance Minister: The austerity measures will stop Israel reaching the conditions in Europe with high unemployment. 2 July 13 12:42, Moshe Golan. Tweet. “The idea that we have people here whose lives are at risk because they are doing their jobs is 
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EU Rehn: New Portugal Finance Minister Must Maintain Tempo of Reform
Wall Street Journal
The former treasury secretary took the post after Vitor Gaspar, chief enforcer of austerity demands under Portugal’s EUR78 billion international bailout program, said Monday he was stepping down after two years in the job. Mr. Rehn praised Mr. Gaspar 
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The Strain in Spain Could Help Firefox OS Take Root
TechNewsWorld
Due to the extreme austerity measures in certain South American and European countries, “low-cost smartphones will be very appealing,” said Joshua Flood, a senior analyst at ABI Research. The ZTE Open — the first commercially available smartphone 
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Merkel opponent derides jobless summit as cynical ploy
Reuters
BERLIN (Reuters) – Angela Merkel’s summit on youth unemployment in Europe is an attempt to paper over the economic consequences of the austerity policies she championed in the region, a leading member of Germany’s opposition Social Democrats 
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Portugal’s austerity government feels the pinch
BBC News
The resignation in quick succession of two of Portugal’s biggest political beasts has left many questioning whether the right-of-centre government which has enthusiastically embraced austeritymeasures can survive more than a few weeks, let alone months.
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Twenty years of austerity ahead, says Sir Jeremy Heywood
Telegraph.co.uk
Sir Jeremy Heywood also suggested that the cuts made to public services to date were not sufficient and that austerity measures would have to continue for “at least” another four years. The comments from the Cabinet Secretary will have a sobering 
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Austerity Blitz: Eurozone Notes From Beyond the Grave
Truth-Out
The criminal effects of the austerity blitz strategy that the European Union (EU) conceived of on Germany’s insistence as the answer to the global financial crisis when it hit Europe’s shores with the triggering of the Greek sovereign debt crisis have 
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Portugal’s Budget Austerity May Do More Harm Than Good
KTEP
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Of all the bailed-out countries in Europe, Portugal has been the good student – taking the austerity medicine its lenders prescribe. Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar took it even further – doubling budget cuts and tax hikes.
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Public sector austerity drive ‘hitting women the hardest’
Gulf Times
George Osborne’s revelation in his spending review that a further 144,000 jobs are to be slashed from the public sector means there is more pain to come for women, critics say. Data collated by the Guardian highlights the disproportionate blow to 
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Lapid: Without Austerity Measures, Deficit Could ‘Bury’ Israel
Algemeiner
Most Popular. Recent Posts. The BioHug vest. Photo: BioHug.com. Israeli-Developed Vest Hugs People to Health · Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party. Lapid: Without Austerity Measures, Deficit Could ‘Bury’ Israel · Amy Winehouse. Photo: wiki commons.
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Portugal’s PM says he won’t quit despite resignations over austerity measures
Fox News
But the government’s future is hanging in the balance after the resignation earlier Tuesday of Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior party in the governing center-right coalition, in protest against austerity measures. Passos Coelho 
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Trade unions call for social investment
Morning Star Online
And he said the people of Northern Ireland were suffering the same fate at the hands of the austerity-mad Westminster government. “Austerity is now no more than a mantra without meaning. The intellectual underpinning for it has been discredited,” he 
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Portugal’s finance minister resigns amid pressure for government to soften 
Malaysia Sun
Portugal’s finance minister resigns amid pressure for government to soften austerity | Malaysia Sun. Malaysia Sun. Issue 11/0183. Malaysia Sun · http://www.malaysiasun.com · Malaysia News · Southeast Asia News · Breaking International News · Asia 
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Activists climb County Hall, Westminster in anti war, anti austerity protest
Indymedia UK
The newly formed Black Katz Kollektive has within the last hour occupied County Hall on the south side of Westminster Bridge facing the Houses of Parliament, with banners unfurled down the side of the building. Their message is simple: stop the war 
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Portuguese government in peril as foreign minister, head of junior party in 
The Republic
Austerity is widely blamed for driving the jobless rate in Portugal to 17.6 percent and for what is forecast to be a third straight year of recession in 2013. Portugal needed a 78 billion euros ($102 billion) bailout two years ago after a decade of 
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Portugal PM defiant despite another resignation
Boston.com
Gaspar, a non-political economist specially selected by Passos Coelho to push the austerity drive, said he lacked the political and public support for his ongoing program of cutting public sector pay and pensions and raising taxes. Portas, the leader 
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Portuguese Finance Minister Gaspar resigns
Channel News Asia
Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar, the architect of the country’s reforms under its EU-IMF bailout, resigned on Monday as the economy reels and social discontent mounts under the impact ofausterity measures. PHOTOS. File photo of Portuguese 
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Miss. tax receipts approach $5 billion in FY2013
WJTV
Top budget writers say they expect pressure from schools, universities and state agencies that saw budgets slashed during four years of austerity. Tax receipts have surged more strongly than jobs or Mississippi’s overall economy, leading to notes of 
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Portuguese PM adamant he will not stand down
Radio New Zealand
Austerity measures are blamed for causing Portugal’s worst economic crisis since the 1970s. Portugal has been in recession for two years and the economy is expected to contract by 2.3% this year. Unemployment is over 17.5%. A general strike was held 
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Portuguese Finance Minister Resigns
New York Times
MADRID — Portugal’s finance minister, Vítor Gaspar, unexpectedly resigned Monday amid a prolonged recession that citizens have attributed largely to austerity measures that he helped enforce in accordance with the demands of the country’s 
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Concern over Portugal bailout
Independent Online
Lisbon – The resignation of the main architect of Portugal’s austerity policies has sparked concern over the country’s ability to complete its EU-IMF bailout programme. Analysts say the departure Monday of finance minister Vitor Gaspar has weakened a 
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Portugal foreign minister steps down in second major ministerial resignation
Deutsche Welle
Former Treasury Secretary, Albuquerque was appointed on Monday following the shock resignation of Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar, the main architect of the austerity measures. ccp/kms (AFP, AP, dpa). Date 02.07.2013; Share Send Facebook Twitter 
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Austerity Today


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Bond investor says Ireland will continue its policy of austerity

Irish Independent
“Indeed, Irish society seems remarkably hesitant to change course. Right or wrong, Ireland will stick with austerity. Efforts to regain national control of the country’s destiny, the Irish seem to believe, must take time.” Recounting Ireland’s slide 
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Ireland and the Austerity Debate

Project Syndicate
DUBLIN – Both sides of the austerity debate that is now gripping economists and policymakers citeIreland’s experience as evidence for their case. And, however much they try to position the country as a poster-child, neither side is able to convince 
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No winners if austerity continues – Independent.ie

* The fact that the economy is now officially back in recession vindicates those of us once referred to as economic illiterates. read full article

independent.ie

Reilly to make cuts of €40m in fees to GPs and pharmacists

Cuts effective immediately and figure represents savings to be made by the end of the year read full article

irishtimes.com

Portugal finance minister quits

Resignation of Vitor Gaspar comes amid rising social discontent over austerity measuresread full article

aljazeera.com

EU gives Greece three-day ultimatum over €8.1bn bailout loans

GREECE has three days to reassure its lenders it can deliver on conditions attached to its international bailout in order to receive the next tranche of aid, four euro zone officials wa read full article

independent.ie

Irish health spending contracting faster than any other country except Greece

The OECD figures show Ireland has fewer doctors than most European countries, though more per head of population than in the US or Canada . Ireland has a relatively high number of nurses, though the report warns about comparing data as nurses and midwives can be categorised differently. read full article

irishtimes.com

Public sector austerity measures hitting women hardest

Figures show that twice as many women as men have lost jobs in local government since the coalition came to power in 2010 read full article

guardian.co.uk

Austerity


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EU officials: 2,500 jobs to go in austerity deal

Two thousand five hundred EU officials are to lose their jobs in the next four years under a new austerity agreement. read full article

euobserver.com

Economic Rebalancing Acts by Robert Skidelsky

A phrase often heard, especially in leftist circles, is that the 2008 crisis has given us an opportunity to “rebalance the economy,” with production for profit yielding to production for “well-being.”… read full article

project-syndicate.org

Prime Minister’s ‘Loose Cannon’ Style Divides Greece
NPR
Antonis Samaras became prime minister of Greece a year ago, when the world assumed his country, battered by debt and austerity, would exit the eurozone. European leaders were openly relieved that Samaras’ conservative, pro-bailout New Democracy 
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COLUMN: Beth Farhat – Heavy toll of austerity

nebusiness.co.uk
On the 20th and 21st June the TUC Austerity Uncovered bus stopped at Carlisle, Newcastle, Sunderland and Stockton. Staff and campaigners spoke to people facing a variety of challenges, including the arbitrary bedroom tax, rising bills, pay freezes, pay 
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What’s killing Labour? A thousand failures to oppose the cuts

The Independent


His statement last week should have been rebranded “The Comprehensive Review of the Failure ofAusterity”. The Tories’ central pledge at the last election, after all, was that the deficit would be erased, wiped out, vanished over the course of this 
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Economic Rebalancing Acts

Project Syndicate
LONDON – We all know how the global economic crisis began. The banks over-lent to the housing market. The subsequent burst of the housing bubble in the United States caused banks to fail, because banking had gone global and the big banks held one 
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A brief look at Britain’s economy as new Bank of England governor takes charge

Edmonton Journal
Prime Minister David Cameron’s government instituted an austerity program to make ends meet and shrink the size of the government. The respected Institute for Fiscal studies estimates that 1 million public sector jobs could be lost by 2017-2018. Even 
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Austerity News


There’s a good reason we haven’t rioted over all the austerity

Irish Independent
For the past five years the Irish people have been hammered almost senseless by austerity. And it’s not like we’ve sleepwalked through it: week in and week out the airwaves, papers and social media are on fire with frenzied analysis and furious reaction.
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The Irish Economy – Brendan and Dermot Walsh on health and austerity

Dermot and Brendan Walsh have just published a provocative comment in the British Medical Journal on the link between health and austerity  [http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f4140/rr/651853]. Momentary relief from the deliberations on Anglo! The comment reads: Ireland is – after Greece – the country where the post 2008 structural adjustment programme, aka austerity, has been proportionately most severe. Yet there are […] read full article

irisheconomy.ie

Agreement reached on austerity measures and reforms for European civil service

Invest in EU
They confirmed an agreement achieved on Tuesday (25) by representatives of the Parliament, theIrish Presidency and the Commission which was already supported by the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee yesterday (24). Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič 
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Austerity: the elderly can be part of the solution to this economic mess
The Guardian
Will Hutton is rightly appalled by the stupidity of George Osborne and the coalition’s economic policies, which even Vince Cable and the Lib Dems are now beginning to realise are taking us in an accelerating downward spiral (“Blame austerity, not old 
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Portland’s Austerity Resistance Movement Sparks Changes to City
Bay Area Indymedia
This latest round of cuts promised to be the worst of several successive years of austeritymeasures. Each time city officials have told the public that “temporary” sacrifices need to be made now to enable the economy toå turn around tomorrow. Each 
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France to deepen austerity cuts next year – paper
Times of Oman
France to deepen austerity cuts next year – paper. by Reuters June 29, 2013 , 7 : 38 pm SAVE THIS ARTICLE. Share. Tweet. E-mail. Young French people demonstrate against President Hollande’s economic policies in Paris. Photo – Daniel Finnan via Flickr 
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More Austerity Seen Coming For Greece
Greek Reporter
The newspaper Kathimerini said it had seen a revised memorandum between Greece and the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which calls for new austerity measures unless revenues can be 
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The pain of mining austerity: 7000 Queensland coal jobs gone

MINING.com
Roughly 7000 coal sector jobs have disappeared from the Australian state of Queensland in just over a year, The Courier-Mail reported Saturday. “New market realities” including collapsing commodity prices, slowing Asian demand and diminishing profits 
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France in double-dip recession amid austerity measures: Analysts
Press TV
Analysts say French leaders are continuing with austerity measures and cuts although reports indicate that France is in a double-dip recession, Press TV reports. “France is in recession because President Francois Hollande has chosen austerity. But 
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Austerity starts at home, cut political salaries first: Lithuanian president

euronews
After a successful Irish EU presidency, which saw real steps taken on banking union and the bloc’s budget, euronews met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaité to discuss which course she plans to chart for the European Union over the next six 
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Austerity and the Mistaken Lessons of History
New Yorker (blog)
At this stage, when even the International Monetary Fund has turned against Osborne and called upon him to reverse course, I won’t bother retreading the arguments against austerity. Suffice it to say that compared with the behavior of the U.S. economy, 
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Austerity is like ‘bleeding’ the patient – and may be as deadly


Irish Independent
Retail sales, which were looking up only a few months ago, are falling, no doubt as a result of sustained austerity, which reduces disposable income, and uncertainty surrounding the property tax. Three things explain the decline. First, austerity is 
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Austerity Opera made to inspire next generation
Cotswold News
Two enterprising Midlands arts companies are staging a full-scale opera, based on Homer’s epics The Iliad & The Odyssey, on a budget that would barely pay for the wardrobe of most opera houses. Coventry-based Talking Birds Theatre Company and 
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Prince Charles: Taxpayers’ bill for austerity heir HALVES in one year
Mirror.co.uk
He’s not exactly surviving on bread and water, but Prince Charles has halved the amount of taxpayers’ money he has splashed out, figures revealed today. The public bill for the heir to the throne fell from £2.2million to £1.15million in the last 
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Portuguese strike against austerity
RT
Portuguese strike against austerity. Thousands of people have been marching towards the parliament in Lisbon as trade unions, which represent around 1 million workers, staged a 24-hour strike. This protest was aimed against relentless austerity 
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The Austerity Bus arrives in Weston-super-Mare
ITV News
The TUC Austerity Bus has arrived in Weston for a rally organised by the union, Unison. Many of its members work at Weston General Hospital and say they are concerned at proposals to privatise it. The hospital has struggled with debt and new methods of 
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Miners to offer austerity help to Durham’s former pit villages
The Northern Echo
The Durham Miners’ Association has called the first meeting to discuss the union’s response toausterity measures at the Glebe Centre, in Murton on Tuesday, July 2 at 5.30pm. It will discuss the impact of unemployment, benefit cuts and the so-called 
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UK Labour Party Admits Austerity Plans

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The European economic crisis has coincided with a decline in press freedom in the EU.


n the half decade since the beginning of the economic crisis, global press freedom has declined, and the EU has been no exception to this trend. Reporting on a new survey on press freedom, Jennifer Dunham and Zselyke Csaky find that Greece and Hungary have experienced large declines in press freedom in recent years, with Lithuania, Latvia and Spain also seeing falls. They write that the economic crisis has exacerbated deep-rooted problems across Europe’s media environments leading to a decline in print media circulation and diversity, as well as a greater concentration of media ownership.

Each year in May, Freedom House, a Washington, D.C.–based institute that specializes in research on global democracy, issues a report on the condition of press freedom around the world. The most significant—and disturbing—finding of Freedom of the Press 2013: A Global Survey of Media Independence was that the proportion of the global population that enjoys a free press continued to decline in 2012, falling to less than one in six, its lowest level in over a decade. The press freedom score in the European Union (EU), traditionally one of the world’s best-performing regions, also fell victim to this negative trend, with a further drop in the regional average and declines in both the old member states and those that joined the bloc in 2004 or later.

The year 2012 featured a notable deterioration in Greece and more moderate declines in Spain and other nations. This comes on the heels of a steep decline in Hungary’s score in recent years, and ongoing problems in Italy, Latvia, and Lithuania. As governments and media sectors felt the impact of the economic crisis that began in 2008, the state-run and private media suffered staff and salary cuts, declines in advertising revenue, and even the closure of outlets. This in turn had the effect of exacerbating existing problems, such as declining print circulation, the concentration of media ownership, decreasing print media diversity, and expanding influence on content by political or business interests.

Figure One – Average Press Freedom Scores in the EU, 2008–12

Media Freedom Fig 1

Scores are on a scale of 0–100, with 0 as best and 100 as worst. Categories: Free (0-30), Partly Free (31-60), and Not Free (61-100).

Greece’s score decline was the largest in the region in 2012. It fell from 30 to 41 on the survey’s 100-point scale, triggering a change in the country’s press freedom status, from Free to Partly Free. (The third category in the three-tiered system is Not Free.) While Greek society as a whole suffered from economic and political turmoil, the Greek media endured widespread staff cutbacks and some closures of outlets. Journalists also faced heightened legal and physical harassment and pressure from owners or politicians to toe a certain editorial line. These factors damaged the media’s ability to perform their watchdog role and keep citizens adequately informed about election campaigns, austerity measures, corruption, and other critical issues.

In one prominent example, journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested and charged with violation of privacy for publishing the so-called Lagarde List of prominent Greek citizens who had transferred funds to Swiss bank accounts, allegedly to avoid paying taxes in Greece. Although he was initially acquitted, he currently faces a retrial. Furthermore, there were cases of politically motivated firings and suspensions at both state and private media. Journalists were physically attacked while covering protests against government-imposed austerity measures, and targeted by the far-right Golden Dawn party.

The media environment in Spain has also suffered as a result of the economic crisis and a related series of austerity measures, with its score declining from 24 to 27 points in Freedom of the Press 2013—still in the Free range. Media diversity was affected as the advertising market contracted and a number of outlets closed, cut staff, or reduced salaries. Since 2008, 57 media outlets have closed, around one-sixth of the country’s journalists have lost their jobs, and those who remain receive only about half their precrisis salaries. Público, a left-leaning daily aimed at younger readers, stopped printing and switched to an online-only format in February 2012, leaving El País as the only major left-leaning newspaper in print. In addition, several journalists and staff at RTVE, the state-owned broadcaster, were removed aftervoicing criticism of the government’s controversial austerity policies. These developments raise significant concerns about political influence over content and a lack of diverse viewpoints in the mainstream media.

Latvia’s score has fallen to 28, three points shy of the Partly Free category. Declining advertising revenues since 2008 have caused media outlets’ budgets to shrink, resulting in tabloidization and the use of recycled content. Forced to search for new sources of income, some outlets have engaged in the questionable practice of “hidden advertising,” in which paid content is improperly disguised as news. While the country’s economic recovery has accelerated in the past two years, media ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated. Apart from economic problems, political interference in editorial policies has raised concerns, and the country is battling a growing trend of violence against journalists. The 2010 murder of newspaper owner Grigorijs Ņemcovs remains unsolved, and last year another journalist reporting on corruption and organized crime was badly beaten and shot at.

Figure Two – Largest Score Changes in the EU, 2008–12

Media Freedom Fig 2

Latvia’s Baltic neighbor, Lithuania, was also severely hit by the economic crisis, and its media sector suffered similar setbacks, though it is still ranked comfortably in the Free category. While the economy is currently performing well, Lithuania’s media and advertising sectors have not yet caught up. Media ownership has grown more concentrated over the last several years, and the industry’s recovery has been hampered by rising taxes on media outlets. Banks are barred by law from owning media, but many institutions work around those restrictions by maintaining media holdings through intermediaries, and newspapers controlled by financial institutions often demonstrate bias toward their owners. A number of politicians also have ownership stakes in media outlets.

Figure Three – Press Freedom Scores for Selected Countries, 2008–12

Media Freedom Fig 3

Italy did not suffer a decline in score for 2012, but it has been a regional outlier since 2008, when it fell into the Partly Free range due in large measure to the disproportionate influence of one man—then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—over the country’s media. Berlusconi is a major private media owner, and his political position gave him control of the state-owned media as well, including influence over the appointment of directors and key journalists. While his resignation in November 2011 effectively decreased media concentration, Italy’s score did not improve significantly. It remained at 33 in 2012, with a Partly Free status, due in part to pressures from the economic crisis. Working conditions for journalists have become difficult in recent years; those with a full-time contract constitute only 19 percent of the workforce, and there is a significant pay gap between professional and freelance journalists. Those hoping to work full-time for one of the major outlets need a license from the journalists’ association, the Ordine dei Giornalisti, and obtaining one entails a lengthy and costly procedure. Other problems include the influence of political parties over nominations to the public broadcaster and the regulatory authority. This infamous phenomenon is called lottizzazione, or “dividing the spoils” between parties, and has long plagued Italian politics. Journalists also face physical threats or attacks from organized crime networks. In one case, investigative journalist Roberto Saviano has lived under 24-hour police protection since publishing the book Gomorrah, about the Neapolitan mafia, in 2006.

Hungary also avoided further score declines in 2012, but it fell precipitously over the previous three years—from a Free environment with a score of 21 in 2009 to Partly Free with a score of 36 in 2011. And as in Italy, the problems in Hungary cannot be attributed to economic factors alone. Press freedom has eroded in the legal and political areas under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who took office in 2010. His government adopted a new media law that provided for content restrictions and heavy fines; evidence emerged of a politically motivated licensing procedure that caused a critical radio station to lose its frequencies; and reports of censorship and self-censorship increased, especially at the public broadcasters. A series of rulings by the country’s Constitutional Court and legal amendments to meet objections from the European Commission have mitigated the impact of the government’s initiatives. For example, most of the content requirements in the media law have been removed, and a more balanced appointment procedure has been introduced for the head of the Media Authority. Moreover, the critical radio station, Klubradio, got back its frequency after an almost three-year court battle. Nevertheless, several problematic legal provisions remain in place. Media outlets (including online and print) still have to register with the Media Authority, for instance, and they can still receive large fines for violating human dignity or “discriminating against any nation.”

The relatively young democracies of the EU’s east and south have endured the worst press freedom setbacks in recent years, but even leaders of the democratic world like the United Kingdom are not without problems. The country’s libel laws heavily favor the plaintiff, resulting in significant “libel tourism,” though reforms enacted in 2013 appear to be a step in the right direction. Press freedom advocates are less satisfied with the conclusions of the November 2012 Leveson report, which suggested the adoption of statutory press regulations to solve the ethical crisis revealed by a scandal over illicit phone hacking by journalists. The use of superinjunctions also poses a threat to freedom of expression; these court-issued gag orders are an excessively powerful tool in the hands of those who can afford the legal expertise to secure them. Another issue that sets the United Kingdom apart from the best-performing European countries is the persistence of occasional attacks and threats against journalists, especially in Northern Ireland. 

The economic crisis has shed light on, and often exacerbated, deep-rooted problems in the media environments of Europe. These include the cozy relationships between politicians and media owners, government hostility toward critical reporting, and violence against journalists in the course of their work. However, the EU still easily outperforms the world’s other regions, and the recent decline in press freedom has been recognized by European policymakers. As governments contemplate an appropriate response, journalists across Europe are already turning to new media as an outlet for their work. The proliferation of digital media—whether online versions of newspapers, purely web-based news organizations, internet broadcasters, or individual blogs—serves to counteract the contraction of the print sector and often frees journalists from the restrictions and conflicting interests of large public or commercial institutions. In addition to addressing the problems affecting the media offline, policymakers will need to ensure that the legal, political, and economic freedom of online journalism is adequately protected, so that it can evolve into a robust alternative to traditional sources of unbiased information and in-depth investigative reporting on the key issues facing the public.

Via

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/05/27/europe-press-freedom/

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