The political brief
NEWS FROM EUROPE
European Parliament and Commission backs Robin Hood Tax
European MPs have called on the European Union (EU) to promote a global financial transaction tax and to implement it across the EU as a first step. (See article on page 28)
The call came in a resolution drafted by Greek Socialist Anni Podimata, which MEPs in Strasbourg backed by a cross-party majority of 529 to 127, with 18 abstentions.
Now the ball is in the court of other institutions – namely the European Commission and Council.
The European Commission has proposed an EU-wide Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) to fund its next long-term budget (2014-2020).
While the Commission’s support for an FTT is welcome, supporters of the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which include the NASUWT, have reminded politicians that it is important that the revenues from the tax be used to tackle poverty and climate change and to offset the cuts to public services. Campaign supporters have also urged the swift introduction of an FTT, rather than waiting until 2018 for it to be implemented, as the European Commission has suggested.
The UK Government is the now odd one out in Europe. Its promotion of a soft-touch approach to the banks is massively out of step with not only France and Germany, but also with public and expert opinion. A Robin Hood Tax to repair the damage caused by the economic crisis at home and abroad would be hugely popular with voters of all political persuasions.
A new Eurobarometer poll of more than 27,000 people shows Europeans are strongly in favour of an FTT (61%). Of those, more than 80% agree that if global agreement can’t be reached, an FTT should initially be implemented in just the EU. In the UK, 65% were in favour of an FTT.
ETUC – No to Austerity Campaign
The European Trades Union Congress (ETUC) campaign against austerity in Europe was given new impetus with the adoption of the Athens Manifesto at the XII Congress and an emergency resolution.
The ETUC is focusing on the introduction of a European economic governance model. European institutions currently propose to make wages and workers the major adjustment variables in the economy. The ETUC does not accept that the consequences of the economic crisis only affect workers. Thus the European trade union movement will fight for a European New Deal, stringent regulation of financial markets and rating agencies, an end to tax havens, a tax on financial transactions and the cessation of excessive remuneration, golden handshakes and bonuses to executives.
It will also campaign for fundamental social rights to take priority over economic freedoms and for this principle to be guaranteed in a protocol on social progress in the European Treaties, in a revised directive on posted workers and in internal market regulation.
In June, members of the ETUC marched through the streets of Luxembourg ahead of the Finance Ministers meeting. The ETUC called for a change of direction, as governing Europe means reinforcing its social model, not attacking it.
EU Fails to meet self imposed education targets
The EU has met just one of the five education targets it set in 2003. But its goals for 2020 are attainable, says a recent progress Report.
The EU has comfortably beaten its target to increase by 15% the number of maths, science and technology graduates by 2010. But despite some progress, not enough has been done to prevent young people dropping out of school, and improvements to literacy skills and increased participation in upper-secondary and adult education are still needed.
The Report also shows that EU countries can meet the revised set of targets agreed in 2009 for 2020 if they invest money and prioritise education reform.
Two of these new benchmarks are headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy for increasing economic growth and creating jobs, which means they are top of the EU agenda.
The 2020 education targets – progress so far
• reducing the school drop-out rate to below 10% – since 2003, the number of young people leaving school with lowersecondary education or less has fallen to about 14%
• increasing the number of 30-34 year-olds with tertiary education to 40% – the EU average increased by nearly 10 percentage points to 32.3% between 2000 and 2009
• getting 95% of children into pre-primary education – the rate currently stands at 92.3%. Although nine EU countries already meet this target and many others are on track, a few are lagging behind
• improving reading, maths and science skills among 15-year-olds – less than 15% of pupils should under-perform in these core skills by 2020. Today, some 20% of pupils lack adequate reading skills
• increasing the number of adults in lifelong learning to 15% – the number of people taking part in these programmes has slightly decreased, with the rate now below 10% in 17 EU countries
The EU has already taken action to help member countries make the grade. In 2010 it launched Youth on the Move, an initiative to modernise education systems, promote student mobility and tackle youth unemployment. Early this year it launched separate plans to combat early school leaving and promote pre-primary education.
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