No sign of sea change on austerity as Latvia takes EU Presidency helm

Latvia's presidency programme falls significantly short of the mark, and in a plenary debate this morning GUE/NGL MEPs highlighted its failings.

Greek MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis said: “Not once have we heard the Latvian Prime Minister mention the word cohesion. And I didn't hear anything about the dangers of deflation either, nor any mention of the worrying rise of poverty and unemployment in the EU and the Eurozone.”

He added: “On the Juncker package – we think it is inadequate, insufficient, and that leveraging is completely removed from reality. We've got 15% less investment than we did ten years ago, so how are we going to get growth and development? You've had six years to realise that unilateral austerity is not a means to inspire investments.”

Portuguese MEP Miguel Viegas said: “Latvia is presented as a success story but it is a story that the people of the country are not keen on. After the 2008 crisis, at the instruction of the EU institutions, the government imposed a draconian austerity plan: a third of public officials were sacked; schools and hospitals were shut; and taxes for ordinary people were hiked. The country lost a quarter of its wealth in two years. In 2010 alone 40,000 young people emigrated.”

“Is the Latvian presidency now trying to impose this harmful model of austerity on other member states?” asked Viegas.

Irish MEP Matt Carthy commented: “The Latvian Presidency programme fails to offer any real alternative to the fiscal austerity policies which have been championed by all the European institutions for far too long. As it stands the Presidency programme provides little evidence that peripheral countries like Ireland will benefit from the financial measures proposed in the package in terms of jobs or economic growth.

“The programme endorses Juncker's investment package without any real commitment to move away from the austerity policies which have caused absolute devastation to domestic economies across Europe. There are now serious questions to answer about how this investment package is going to be funded.”

Spanish MEPs Marina Albiol Guzmán and Lola Sánchez Caldentey focused their critique on the ongoing negotiations on TTIP, the EU-US trade deal.

Albiol Guzmán said: “TTIP will be an infringement of legal norms on both sides of the Atlantic. Anything that stands in the way of corporate profits will be destroyed: labour rights; environmental standards; public services; and food standards.

“As they are seen as obstacles between big-business and profit they could all could be undermined – despite the fact they have been democratically put in place.”

Sánchez Caldentey focused on the dangers of investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms:

“3.5 billion euros have been lost to private investors through ISDS-type clauses: multinationals are therefore receiving compensation from governments if they see legislation as an obstacle to making a profit from their investments.

“The Commission consultation published yesterday makes it quite clear that there is considerable opposition to ISDS mechanisms because they threaten democracy, the environment and consumer and labour rights. They are an attack on the sovereignty of states.

“The Latvian government must rethink trade policy and put the people first before the interests of the top.”

GUE/NGL Press Contacts:
Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group