The European Parliament's S&D Group gathered yesterday with members of the PES Group of the Committee of the Regions to coordinate action on two joint priority topics for the remainder of 2016: the EU Investment's Agenda and intra-EU labour mobility.
Speaking at their meeting, Elio Di Rupo, President of the Belgian Socialist Party (PS), Mayor of Mons and former Belgian Prime Minister (2011-2014), strongly criticized an austerity-driven Europe based on a lowest common denominator approach:
"Europe is currently weak in terms of solidarity but strong in terms of austerity. In regions and cities we see the unbearable human consequences of this policy. We Socialists have to stand for a comprehensive alternative for citizens based on social and economic convergence. We urgently need to boost public investments and better equip regional and local authorities, who are the engine of European development."
Regarding the mobility of workers, he made the case for stronger and transparent EU rules: "Labour mobility is one of the cornerstones of European integration. However, we see that Europe is currently experiencing unfair competition between Member States, and citizens are being put in competition rather than being united. We need a clear European 'Yes' to a social Europe and a clear 'No' to national selfishness and social dumping."
The President of the S&D Group, Gianni Pittella, and the President of the PES Group President Catiuscia Marini, President of the Umbria region (Italy), joined Di Rupo's call for a clear progressive response at all government levels and for excluding Structural Fund co-financing from national debt calculations.
Gianni Pittella stressed: "We believe that our progressive vision of democracy and social justice has to be built up at all levels, from global to local, from the EU to its regions and municipalities. Regions are at the front line of many challenges and it is essential for us to have a constant dialogue with regional representatives in order to better understand how EU policies are implemented and where shortcomings of these policies have to be addressed.
Together we have fought in favour of a European Investment plan – now we must send a strong political signal to both the European Commission and the European Investment Bank to be more ambitious, more innovative and better take into account local needs, both in terms of employment and regional cohesion."
Catiuscia Marini added: "The drop in investments due to the crisis was even worse for regions because of the impact of the Stability Pact at national level. To address this dramatic situation, it is crucial that the European Fund for Strategic Investments is complementary to structural funds and uses additional resources, and that the current top-down approach is revisited by promoting an active role for regions and cities."