BM 63 – Economic Crisis, youth and democracy
Austerity is based on the idea that cutting public expenditure along with the concept of internal devaluation will inspire confidence in the markets and hence will lead to economic recovery. Unfortunately, the measures implemented in the various countries whose economies are facing serious problems are based on this perception. Unfortunately, because the states that have implemented these policies sank further to the abyss of the crisis a fact that demonstrates that the prescription of austerity has failed.
The examination of various national situations reveals that social rights standards are severely compromised, given that austerity measures are often applied to public social services and programmes like infrastructure, health and education and training and thus tend to affect the most vulnerable social groups, including students.
The crisis and the austerity policies imposed, threaten the young generation’s effective exercise of rights, affecting their autonomy, dignity and well-being by increasing economic and social inequalities. As a result, Europe risks producing a «lost generation» of disillusioned young people at a time where young people should be considered both, a key asset of an aging Europe and crucial actors for helping the society to overcome the crisis.
Austerity measures applied across Europe are viewed increasingly critically by international experts and organisations, because they are undermining democratic rights. Very often, decisions are taken on the basis of very short-term considerations, alleged urgent necessities and by following urgent procedures. Thus, the sovereignty of states and governments facing crisis situations are diminished, transparency and democratic processes are neglected, the decisions are taken much away from the individual citizen and as a result, a gap of democratic control and legitimisation has been created.
The European Union is founded on the values of democracy and solidarity and the efforts to exit the crisis should be in accordance with these principles and values. The efforts to tackle the economic crisis should have as a starting point the democratic will of the people, the welfare state and the social consensus and in no case to ignore or disregard these elements. The European experience shows that what is needed is not further austerity measures but reforms and growth in order to boost the economy and preserve social cohesion.