Politicians and major European organisations working in the fields of health, poverty, democracy, education and the environment will discuss the potential benefits of unconditional basic income at the European Economic and Social Committee on Thursday, 10 April 2014. The conference will also mark the launch of a new network, Unconditional Basic Income Europe, which formed around the European Citizens Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income (ECI for UBI) last year. Citizens from 25 European countries have collaborated to hold this conference.
Entitled ‘Unconditional Basic Income: Emancipating European Welfare’, the conference will bring together activists, politicians, organisations and interested individuals to highlight the potential benefits of this idea. UBI gained an unprecedented amount of press coverage last year, and was backed by over 300,000 supporters across Europe during the ECI for UBI.
During its year-long run the number of countries involved with this European Citizens’ Initiative swelled from 13 to 25. “As momentum built in the last two months of the collection period of the ECI on UBI, signatures doubled,” said Klaus Sambor, general organiser of the ECI for UBI. The conference will celebrate organisers’ achievements during this ECI with reports from several of the countries involved, including the latest developments of UBI campaigns within their borders.
There will also be presentations from Guy Standing about a recent pilot project in India, Philippe van Parijs about his proposal for a ‘Eurodividend’ to be paid to all EU citizens, Ronald Blaschke of Netzwerk Grundeinkommen Germany on UBI’s potential to ameliorate hidden poverty. Others including Sian Jones of the European Anti-Poverty Network and Plamen Dimitrov, President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria will speak about UBI’s beneficial effects on health, the environment, democracy and social solidarity.
The conference’s moderator will be Karl Widerquist, co-Chair of the Basic Income Earth Network and editor of BINews.org. “With the UBI movement,” Widerquist writes, “people are beginning to realise that there is no freedom without freedom from poverty, and there is no freedom from poverty without unconditional access to the basic necessities of life.”
Unconditional basic income is a regular payment to each individual, without means-testing or work requirement and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and full participation in society. UBI has seen a resurgence of popularity in the wake of mass technological unemployment, along with swingeing cuts and increasingly burdensome conditions attached to national social security schemes across Europe. These have left a growing number of adults and children in poverty: according to the latest report from the EU Social Protection Committee, in 2012 close to 25% of the European population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a 6-year high. The figures for 2013/4 will no doubt show a further increase.
Yet unconditional basic income is not unrealistic. “The bank bailouts showed that there’s certainly enough money given the political will, yet the poor took the brunt of a financial crisis they didn’t cause,” said Barb Jacobson, Chair of UBIE. Various forms of UBI were close to being implemented in the US, Canada and the UK in the 1970s; Brazil is working towards it with the Bolsa Familia; after a successful pilot study in Namibia in 2009 the demand for unconditional basic income to be paid from resource taxes has been growing in Southern Africa.
At a time when the EU and especially the Eurozone needs more political, fiscal and social integration in order to survive, the implementation of an EU-wide unconditional basic income could be a key instrument to ensure its future political feasibility. There is a growing consensus among economists and politicians that it makes little sense to have a monetary union without unanimity on social security and working conditions.
Unconditional Basic Income: Emancipating European Welfare
Thursday 10 April 2014 (9.30 – 17.30)
European Economic and Social Committee, Van Maerlant Building
99 rue Belliard, 1040 Brussels (Room VM3, 2nd floor)
Full Program here: http://basicincome-europe.org/ubie/event/ubie-conference-brussels/
Registration required by 5pm, Monday 7 April: please email conference[a]ubie.org
Press contact: Barb Jacobson +44 7985 670 688 / press[a]ubie.org