A Basic Income needed now to help Greece

Europe must show real solidarity

The new bailout agreement between the Eurozone and the Greek government seems to unite everyone on one point at least: nobody thinks it’s going to work. In the face of continued uncertainty, Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE) reminds EU leaders that they have a responsibility towards Greek citizens who have suffered most from austerity policies and are likely to be hit hardest by further spending cuts. We call for a Europe-wide citizen’s income to protect the most vulnerable.

Press release – 11 August 2015

Europe’s 500 million citizens have good reasons to ask themselves now: Whose Europe is this? Why are our governments putting so much effort and money into saving banks and abstract institutional constructs – while real people’s suffering is considered merely ‘collateral damage’?

As Antonis Triantafyllakis of the Greek basic income initiative points out:

“In the past six years, Greek citizens have experienced an unprecedented drop in living standards. The new deal with the creditors is widely perceived as a political blackmail that will further deepen an already serious humanitarian crisis without giving any perspective for economic improvements in the years to come. If continued austerity is all the EU has to offer to Member Countries facing hardship, it’s hardly surprising that people’s enthusiasm for European integration is vanishing. For the European idea to survive and to prevent further strengthening of nationalist, xenophobic, anti-European movements, it is essential to demonstrate that the European Union is a community of solidarity where all citizens deserve protection.”

In Greece – as well as in other crisis hit countries – this means that we must ensure decent living conditions for all. In a situation where states are forced to cut social spending while still under risk of default, it is both economically prudent and a moral imperative to set up a direct European mechanism to ensure decent living conditions where national member states are incapable of doing so.

The best model for this would be a Europe-wide unconditional basic income. Funded by all member states in proportion to their GDP, this mechanism would in the first place be a safety net for all citizens. It would also work as an automatic stabiliser against developments which threaten to tear apart economic and monetary integration. Otherwise the already very thin base for European solidarity is under threat of being permanently destroyed.

As the case of Greece shows: in a public debt crisis, current social security instruments do not work. If both public and private sectors are forced to cut everything and to lay off large numbers of employees, the only reliable safety net is an all-encompassing model that is able to provide for basic survival of everyone. This would sustain internal demand to enhance fast economic recovery.

A basic income would be superior to other suggested automatic stabilisers such as minimum income or unemployment benefit. Since entitlement is universal, a basic income is not prone to weak administration, clientelism or corruption.

It is high time that European leaders put aside their obsession with saving markets and banks, Their fundamental responsibility is to protect citizens in times of need. Europeans will reward it by rediscovering their love for Europe.

Credit picture: CC Theophilos Papadopoulos

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