Austerity and Structural reforms, a Bad Business for Europeans

For the nth time just a few days ago, we’ve had to hear new lessons from Germany about Spanish problems caused by the bitter pills of austerity with no sweetener added whatsoever. The German minister for finances has concluded that the youth unemployment problem in countries like Spain is due to some youths getting comfortable and not bothering to look for a job.

It seems perverted that the German minister should give lessons to Spanish youths about the situation they are in. He must be trying to avoid the “pull effect” on hundreds of thousands of young people in the south of Europe to his labor market, which, although it is just as precarious as others, still counts on sufficient dynamism to maintain a low level of youth unemployment. The minister has arrived too late. Many of our citizens see themselves as banished to these countries without any guarantees and with very little security either in the country of destination or when they return. The latest figures from The National Institute of Spanish Statistics clearly show that this drain continued throughout 2014 with a negative migratory balance since 2011.

The German minister, armed with this information, should also know that it is true that working mobility among young people in Europe is indeed a problem, but not just a Spanish one or even a southern European one, but on that ALL member states share. The latest data published by Eurofound (Labour mobility in the EU: Recent trends and policies, October 2014), tells us that, even though intra-European mobility has improved slightly since 2011, it still continues to be low (it makes up only 0.3% of the total European population) in relation to our nearest competitors, such as the USA (where the rate reaches 1.2% of the population). Therefore, we don’t know exactly what Schauble’s referring to in relation to Spanish youths, but it seems clear that the rest of Europe doesn’t want to change residence either when looking for work. The same Eurofound study highlights that the principal problems youths find when facing this decision are the conservative protectionist policies of the member states in relation to their labor markets and the perceived possible burden on the welfare state of each country.

It must therefore be that we are lacking the “adventurous spirit” the Spanish government alludes to when they try to take the drama out of the youth labor exile, or maybe Europe doesn’t have the resources, networks or security needed to guarantee the mobility in looking for a job in equal conditions without uncertainties and with social and labor rights guaranteed in the country of destination, which should also later be applied in the country of origin, if they decide to return (working subsidies, pensions).

Not long ago in a meeting with representatives of  Marea Granate, the association of Spanish expatriates, they told me about the difficulties they found in their countries of destination to obtain such basic things as healthcare, and what’s even more serious is that when they return, they find themselves without a health card in their own country. Is this the model of mobility Europe offers to its young people? Forced to leave, no guarantees and putting even the most basic rights at risk.

And it goes without saying, Europe doesn’t count on a Europe-wide unemployment insurance that would encourage a single labor market and would, without a doubt, contribute to the stabilization of an asymmetric shock such as the one Europe is currently living.

But Schäuble doesn’t like that, because it appeals to one of the founding principles of the idea of Europe that his policies seem to forget; that is, solidarity. A solidarity that has been the true motor in the construction of a Europe that today benefits us all, but above all benefits the economic and financial interests of some. We shouldn’t forget this.

A few days after Schauble’s words, Angela Merkel gave, as an example of the success of German recipes for Europe, the case of Spain. All I can do is repeat a sentence I said to the EPP Members of Parliament in terms they understand, while they talked up the structural reforms and austerity policies that Spain has suffered: Ladies and Gentlemen who govern the destiny of Spain, what a bad business if Spain leaves the crisis behind, while the vast majority of Spaniards have not! Instead, this majority of citizens could be left in the current situation of uncertainty, necessity, poverty, desperation and lack of dignity.