As acknowledged in the Euromeeting debate in Lisbon, the crisis that has hit Europe since 2008 was originally caused by housing speculation, which then led to an overestimation of bank assets, making them become “toxic”. At some point, the implosion of the “property bubble” caused some major American banks and other banks in many European countries to collapse.
It could be argued that these results are a consequence of liberal economic theories, which caused policies to be subject to the “the free market”. The theories turned out to be wrong, and with deregulation of the financial market and poorly managed banks, the entire Western world was affected.
On the other hand, in Europe, the so-called “Original sin” of the Euro (i.e. a creation of inequalities between countries, with the assumption that through a single currency a uniform economic area would be created) often caused dramatic consequences for some of the countries with fragile economies.
Indeed, the majority of the “Eurozone” gives priority to national aspirations rather than European aspirations, without having a clear idea about a union of countries, which led to the deterioration of economic and social inequalities among the different countries in the Eurozone.
When the time came to face the crisis, austerity policies were developed which made ordinary citizens pay for the recovery of the banks through further unemployment, poorer health service, poorer education and more emigration, especially in counties with the most fragile economies.
All in all, the measures that the European Union started to put in place to tackle the crisis are far from putting a stop to it.
HOW TO EMERGE FROMTHE CRISIS?
Europe relocated a huge part of its industry to countries where the workforce is cheaper, but it did not anticipate the consequences of this decision. Europe will only be able to regain the power it has had from the post-war period to the nineties through productive reinvestment, and without financial speculation.
Tax havens lead to tax evasion and tax fraud. These financial havens hide and “launder” money from well-known sources, an activity which is most likely to be done by speculators and traders. Its elimination will only be achieved through concerted action by all nations, especially those who would protect themselves and benefit from it.
Bank secrecy and the freedom it gives to those who move money around illegally are both issues linked to tax havens. An efficient information exchange system on capital mobility between different countries would be necessary.
On the other hand, the citizen’s Europe does not exist yet due to the fact that European mechanisms and institutions do not bear in mind their citizens’ needs and they do not feel that global problems are also their own problems.
The “European Union” is not yet a reality due to the existence of national selfishness, and even social and cultural barriers in some European regions which prevent us from achieving the ideal of a Europe for all. Each country’s history and culture needs to be respected to ensure that they are united, but without expanding them.
THE PENSIONERS’ ROLE IN THE FUTURE:
The current retirees (or the sandwich generation, a name given to us by many countries) are citizens who help the previous generations, who experienced many difficulties due to the war and the post-war. They also help the younger generation, who are suffering the consequences of the crisis with threats of unemployment and impoverishment. It is us, citizens who still carry supportive values and who can give shape to a Citizen’s Europe.
The liberal and neoliberal theories try to create a division between our generation and our children’s, making them believe that we have great lives and that we do not want to share our wellbeing with them so that, they, too can be better off. This is not true, and our assets which we have earned during our work life are also for our children, whether it is through financial help from through good maintenance of these assets so they can put them to good use in the future.
Age should not be a dividing issue for citizens when the future of Europe is concerned. The elderly represent the largest demographic group of European citizens. We have the experience of many years of work and suffering. Therefore, if we face Europe’s challenges, the “grey power” can provide new forces so that Europe can rebuild itself.
Many retired citizens, whether they retired at 60, 65, 67 from even 70, still have the energy and capability to pass on their “business culture” to younger generations. It is true that there are some new tasks that we are no longer familiar with, but a prudent management will be a great gain for companies and institutions.
Even if the volunteer work is not in the traditional sectors, older people are capable and available to carry on producing goods and services in the what we now call “third sector”, or in other words, in the “social economy”. This needs to target the wellbeing of all citizens.
Europe will only be able to overcome the crisis by putting an end to the virtual division between the “old” and the “young”. Also, it needs to ensure that everyone can benefit from the prospects, in order for the citizens to progress both economically and socially.
We cannot jump to the conclusion that pensioners no longer need any sort of educational training. It is quite the contrary; the increased amount of spare time should be used to improve their knowledge in fields which they did not have the opportunity to study before.
There is an increasing amount of senior students in traditional schools. Also, the role of “Senior Universities” is very important as they transmit knowledge, most of the time it is not done in a very “academic way”, but they are always very efficient.