The Guardian July 2, 2003

A wind of protest sweeping Europe

From Paris to Berlin, through Vienna and Athens, Madrid, Rome and 
Lisbon, hundreds of thousands of wage-earners have taken to the streets to 
fight the plans of their respective governments to undermine the right of 
wage earners to a pension.

"Albeit with local variations, plans are being put into effect aimed at 
postponing the retiring age, reducing benefits and giving strong incentives 
to the creation of investment-based pension funds, subject to all the whims 
of the stock exchange", nine European left parties warned in a joint 
declaration issued last month.

The declaration was signed by leaders of: French Communist Party, Austrian 
Communist Party, Communist Refoundation Party (Italy), Portuguese Communist 
Party, Party of Italian Communists, Left Party of Sweden, United Left 
(Spain), Synaspismos (Greece), and Democratic Left Party (Germany).

The EU governments and employers depict the situation as being disastrous 
in the long run, and present their "liberal" remedies as the only way to 
check the scourge of an ageing population.

"The champions of capitalism are determined to undermine all the social 
achievements of the last 50 years", the parties said.

There real motives are:

"* the obsession with lowering wage costs, the refusal to develop and 
promote job security, training and wages, which are, nevertheless, the 
basis of pension systems based on sharing;

"* to expand the financial market capitalising the pensions funds so as to 
increase the paper profitability of capital;

"* to lower public and social expenditure, strait-jacketed in the Stability 
Pact, to protect the independence of the Central European Bank so that it 
can be made exclusively to serve the rate of profit."

No consideration was given to any alternative aimed at maintaining the pay-
as-you-go pension system.

The governments ignore the question of reforming the system of the 
employers' social security contributions and their rates in such a way as 
to give incentives to firms that invest in more stable and qualified jobs, 
more training and better wages and to penalise those who prefer financial 
investments, insecure jobs sackings.

"We believe that other choices are possible.

"We declare our complete solidarity with wage-earners and their trade union 
organisations that are opposing these catastrophic measures and are 
proposing alternatives that strengthen the wage-earners' retirement rights.

"Everywhere, we are acting and will act to make the governments of Europe 
renounce this retreat from civilisation. We will carry forward these 
proposals in the European election campaigns in 2004.

"Because another Europe is possible, because the word solidarity is not, in 
our view, obsolete", the statement concluded.

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