The European Minimum Income Network (EMIN) is an informal Network of organisations and individuals committed to achieve the progressive realisation of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes. EMIN unites various experts, professionals, academics and diverse entities active in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
EMIN is organised at EU and national levels, in all the Member States of the European Union and also in Iceland, Norway, Macedonia and Serbia. This network is coordinated by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN).
EMIN started as a two-year project (EMIN 1, 2013-2014) funded by the European Commission, with the aim to build consensus and take the necessary steps towards the progressive realisation of adequate and accessible minimum income schemes in EU Member States.
For the period 2017-2018 EMIN receives financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) to develop its work in the EU Member States and at EU level. We call this the EMIN 2 project.
The EMIN2 project aims at the progressive realisation of adequate, accessible and enabling minimum income schemes, through:
Strengthening the EMIN Networks and Networking at EU and National Levels
Building awareness that adequate and accessible incomes are not only good for the people who directly benefit but also for the whole of society
Ensuring progress through engaging in relevant policy debates and initiatives at EU and National levels
Without changing the Treaties just yet, there are possible ways the EU could revive hope and support in the European integration. This requires the European Union to address the most urgent social and economic needs, relaunch citizens’ participation and prepare to fulfill its climate change commitments.
While Brexit certainly provides momentum for reforming the European Union, it remains highly uncertain whether EU leaders will make anything out of it.
Brussels is currently trying to put the European economy back on its feet by strengthening the financial and investment markets and by breaking down global trade barriers. ‘Capital Markets Union’ should make it easier to move capital around Europe, and TTIP and CETA are supposed to bring more investment and growth by increasing trade with the other side of the Atlantic. Yet neither of these initiatives are guaranteed to spur growth as both focus on wealthy investors and international corporations, making many of the EU citizens feel left out.
Transforming Europe is possible and necessary, but it will require bold policies that address the urgent needs of society and provide tangible outcomes for its citizens. Here are three proposals that, I believe, can be enacted in the upcoming few months that would be immensely valuable to the citizens of the EU, while reinforcing their support of the European Project.
Tackling extreme poverty and modernizing the welfare system by moving towards a European Basic Income
The most straightforward way the EU can win back the hearts of its citizens is by tackling the biggest problems many people face today: social and economic insecurity and the rise of poverty.
The idea of a basic income – an income distributed to all citizens regardless of their income or social conditions – would do the job. As outlined by the Belgian philosopher Philippe van Parijs, a European basic income could take the form of a ‘Eurodividend’ – a floor income to all citizens up to a modest level of around 200 euros per month.
Such a scheme would not imply the complete harmonization of welfare systems across the EU, as it is very often feared when debating the notion of social Europe. Only a partial harmonization of a fiscal system (such as VAT or corporation tax) would be necessary. This form of basic income would be the first step towards a straightforward and efficient social European model, while leaving each member state some leeway to preserve most of the specificities of their tax-benefit systems.
This is also a sound macroeconomic proposal to consolidate the Eurozone. Fiscal transfers across members states would operate as a “stabilization mechanism” for the Euro area, thereby limiting the risk of having another Greek-style crisis. Basic calculations (see below) show that the price for this solidarity move for wealthy country would remain modest (not more than 2% of Germany’s GDP) yet the effect would be massive for many poor households. Obviously, we could start with lower levels, or by limiting the scheme to children as a first step.
Across the world, Universal Basic Income is quickly emerging as the best solution to modernizing the welfare system. While this idea will be experimented in Finland next year, the EU has an opportunity to show leadership in this discussion. Admittedly though, a full-fledged eurodividend would either require treaty change or could be initiated under the enhanced cooperation procedure by voluntary countries. It’s a long-term solution.
An immediate step towards implementing basic income would be to run ten parallel local experiments across the EU to assess the impact of a basic income on the labor supply and social conditions.
Or, the European Central Bank could immediately implement something like this by using its power to create money and distribute it directly to the population. After throwing billions in the eurozone financial sector under quantitative easing, it would not be so radical for the ECB to just make a single-1,000 euro transfer directly to every Eurozone citizen, with the possibility of doing it again when necessary.
While experts think it’s legal for the ECB, it would probably require some coordination with other EU institutions and members states. Those institutions should signal their willingness to explore ways to do this, thereby encouraging the ECB to take the lead. Obviously such use of ECB’s money creation power can only be a temporary measure, yet it would allow a quick implementation of a form of basic income, until it can be sustainably financed by a sound EU fiscal system.
There seems to be a wide consensus among experts that a fiscal union for the Eurozone is necessary. Yet none of the member states are taking initiative to really make it happen, fearing loss of sovereignty and lacking national support for it. Only when the benefits of a fiscal union are clearly seen by all Europeans, there will be popular support for it. Something like a euro-dividend has the potential to do just that.
Allowing citizens’ participation in the EU: an urgent reform to the European Citizens’ Initiative
There is no need to argue whether the EU’s decision-making process is perceived as too distant from its constituents. The European Commission is stuck in its bureaucratic mindset while member states are busy struggling to protect their national interests at the European Council meetings instead of defending the general interest of the European citizens – just because the rule of unanimity allows them to.
As Thomas Piketty puts it, “The Council of the EU has become a machine to prevent any possibility of the emergence of democratic deliberation and majority decisions at European level.” In the meantime, the European Parliament is doing its best but remains helpless since it doesn’t have the right of initiative. What if citizens had a say in this highly inefficient institutional arrangement?
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), established in 2012 was the first attempt to bring participatory democracy to the heart of the EU decision-making processes. This petition-like system allows citizens to put forward proposals to the EU Commission when they collect one million signatures from at least 7 countries.
Unfortunately, 3 years after its introduction, the evidence has shown the current design of this democratic instrument is fraught by legal and technical complications. And on top of it all, it is ignored by citizens because it is not legally binding, therefore it has no real impact on policy making.
Despite all the evidence for the need to reform the ECI and growing support from MEPs and civil society organisations, the Commission has so far refused to start any relevant reform of the ECI. It is long overdue, the reform must start now, and thereby send a strong signal to its citizens that they will be heard.
Besides improving the technical modalities of the instrument, there is a case for the ECI to improve the overall decision making process in the EU, and in particular to reinforce the European Parliament’s role. Why not grant a special right of initiative to the EU Parliament in case one million citizens urge it to do so? Admittedly this would require treaty change, but in the meantime, the Commission could morally commit itself to give priority to Parliament’s motions and initiative reports when they follow these European Citizens’ Initiatives. Citizens would have a truly effective instrument to channel their frustrations in a constructive way. The European Parliament would also benefit from it, as ECIs would eventually allow action to be taken in areas where the Commission has the exclusive lead.
Tackling Climate Change with an ambitious green transition plan
In Paris last year, all EU members states committed to act on mitigating climate change. Yet we still cannot see any concrete plans on how to solve this huge challenge.
Investing in green energy or renovating all public government buildings to minimize their energy consumption is a matter of several hundred billion euros. Banks are currently not inclined to finance such a programme because of the low returns on those investments. Therefore it falls onto the public institutions to show leadership and commitment. And since climate is a global issue, member states cannot act alone. The EU is therefore probably the best place to lead and coordinate the effort.
A green transition plan must be quickly enacted at the European level. It could take the form of a Juncker Plan 2.0, whereby the EU would finally start issuing eurobonds through the European Stability Mechanism and provide cheap loans to governments and regions to carry out essential public investments.
Even better, the EU could make use of its European Investment Bank (and their national equivalents) and tap the European Central Bank’s money printing scheme (Quantitative Easing) to finance those investments at no cost for the taxpayers as a MEP Molly Scott Cato has put forward. This is possible right now if only the relevant stakeholders (the ECB, the Commission, the EIB and member states) started coordinating their already existing efforts to amplify their impact.
Additionally, the EU should deliver a complete revamp of its Common Agricultural Policy (AP). While in the past the CAP has driven Europe forward by accompanying a transition towards a more efficient agricultural system, today it has become the subject of an intense struggle between the various vested interest of the agro-industrial players, with little improvement on the quality of our food production. Modernizing the CAP would therefore be an important symbolic plan which would make a positive impact on the citizens. We should aim to redistribute the subsidies from the big industrial players to smaller productions units that are less reliant on intensive polluting techniques and are more labor-intensive.
Recent research by a French Nicolas Hulot Foundation suggests such a plan could amount to 300bn euros per year for the next ten years. Such an investment is not just necessary for the environment, it would stimulate the economy to a much greater extent that anything that the EU has done so far. It would also modernized one of its most emblematic policy – the CAP – finally providing answers to its recurring critics.
By adopting such a strategy, the EU would finally prove that the EU can create jobs, and it would undeniably show commitment and forward-looking economic ambition.
A People’s European Parliament in Strasbourg
Those are just the first ideas from a potentially very long list of transformative yet pragmatic ways to reform the European Project. Many other proposals could be added to the list, but many of them would ultimately require changing the treaties – a taboo among EU policymakers.
The EU cannot afford to wait for everyone to agree on a treaty change to reform itself. This is why we need concrete, pragmatic proposals on the short term, while a medium term roadmap for revamping the two principal treaties should be announced as soon as possible.
To this matter, the European Council and the European Parliament should show their willingness to organise a new European People’s Convention (the Commission would have no choice but to take notice or it would be dismissed).
This convention would be given 12 months to write a new European Treaty. Unlike Giscard’s convention in 2001, this new convention should include greater participation from citizens. This could be done with a first round of local Citizen’s Assemblies where the priorities of the work should be set. The second round would involve a proper European Convention Assembly, whose 50% of the seats would be allocated to voluntary citizens selected by a lottery. The other half should include European and national MPs. Because this convention work must be given time and space, all participants would have to suspend their existing mandates and activities. Such an assembly could easily take place in the EU Parliament’s chamber in Strasbourg – it is empty most of the time anyway.
Importantly, it should be clear from the beginning that the outcome of the convention will be submitted to a popular vote, in a similar fashion as the Icelandic experiment few years ago where a referendum was held to ratify the new constitution proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly. Such referendum is a necessary condition for the work of the Convention to be taken seriously and for the participants to feel empowered to make the best out of it.
Europe has failed since it stopped dreaming big. More political and economic integration is often being promised as the only way to bring more prosperity and solidarity in Europe. Yet we have to acknowledge that it unclear for many how this promise will concretely deliver the intended results.
While a treaty change is inevitable in the long run, we must explore all pragmatic options and be ready to take bold action when the solutions appear. The problems pressing the shoulders of Europe are not going to get lighter with time. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the citizens will need to voice their aspirations louder, and shape the future of the European Union.
Are you ready to take part?
Author: Stanislas Jourdan, European activist, committed to rescue the EU since 2012. I organised a european citizen’s initiative for unconditional basic income and I am currently working as coordinator for the Quantitative easing for people campaign. Based in Brussels.
Funding basic income through taxation is costly. At the same time, low consumer demand is a major worry. The European Central Bank could kill two birds with one stone by giving money directly to citizens.
Finnish social welfare agency KELA’s basic income experiment has got plenty of attention in Finland and elsewhere. This is not surprising: in recent years various proposals for a basic income have been submitted by a growing number of scientists, politicians and non-governmental organizations in several countries. Continue reading “Can the ECB create money for a universal basic income?”
Europe is in deep trouble – economically, socially, and politically. We need new, bolder and stronger instruments to counter the forces of disintegration. A partial basic income paid to all Europeans – a Eurodividend – could become the policy instrument that safeguards the EU and especially the Eurozone from asymetric economic shocks and reconciles citizens with the idea of European integration.
Today, the risk of poverty and social exclusion levels in the EU and in particular the precarity of young people, child poverty and in-work poverty are extremely worrying whilst the prospects of the EU’s 2020 poverty target (i.e. to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020) look rather dim. Moreover, unemployment levels remain very high and particularly affect young people whereas the technological and digital revolution is affecting employment in various aspects, through the replacement of a great amount of jobs, the reorganisation of the workplace and the increase of the gap between productivity gains and income earned by workers. Finally, in the Eurozone, the introduction of the euro has produced increasing economic divergence between deficit and surplus countries (in terms of GDP per capita, labour productivity or unemployment levels among others) as well as important social imbalances in terms of public investment in education, healthcare, or social security. Continue reading “Eurodividend: A partial basic income paid to all Europeans”
Instead of injecting the equivalent of €2.2 trillion into financial markets, the ECB could have injected a quarter as much money and distributed €1,000 to all adult citizens in the eurozone.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament recently launched “Leer Geld”, an initiative led by MEP Sander Loones, to raise awareness about the effects of the monetary policy conducted by the European Central Bank (ECB).
The initiative is to be welcomed: monetary policy is too often overlooked by civil society, yet its impact on our lives has never been greater. Under its “quantitative easing” programme (QE), the ECB has been buying large quantities of government bonds since 2015. Surely injecting the equivalent of 20 percent of GDP into the eurozone finance sector cannot be without consequences. Continue reading “ECB should design, decide and implement the helicopter money programme”
2016 was marked with a series of successes in challenging the ECB’s strategy and bringing the discussion on monetary policy forward. Please find below 10 of the achievements we are most proud of.
1. We organised a conference at the European Parliament
In February we hosted a very successful and well-attended conference at the European Parliament thanks to key supporting MEPs Molly Scott-Cato, Fabio de Masi and Paul Tang. The conference was an important step to establish the campaign’s credibility within the EU. Check out the highlights from the event here.
2. The European Parliament published a report on helicopter money
In April, the European Parliament’s research service dedicated a special policy report on the concept of ‘helicopter money’. The report mentions our work and is broadly positive.
3. A great event in Paris
We also started to build a national coalition in France, and raised our profile by organising a public conference on May 31st in Paris. Key supporters of the campaign presented different proposals for QE for People. The conference was well covered in the French media. Check out the highlights here.
4. 18 MEPs signed an open letter to the ECB
In June, we convinced 18 MEPs to sign a joint letter to Mario Draghi, asking the ECB to “dedicate significant expertise and resources to studying the viability and implementation of innovative policies”. The letter was covered by the Financial Times.
5. We demonstrated the feasibility of QE for People
In September we intensified our lobbying activities in Brussels. In order to convince more MEPs about the need for QE for People, we produced a policy briefing which summarizes how and why the ECB could distribute money directly to citizens. The report is one of the few papers which clearly shows why (and how) the measure would be legal.
6. The vast majority of the population would support QE for People
In October, a European-wide survey evaluated whether people would support the ECB for distributing money directly to individuals. The results showed that 54% would be in favour, with only 14% against. The survey also evaluates how people would spend the money.
7. The European Parliament criticized QE for the first time
In November, the European Parliament adopted its annual resolution on the ECB. In contrast to previous years, for the first time the parliament expressed important concerns on quantitative easing, especially on its lack of effectiveness and its undesired side-effects.
8. The ECB itself admitted QE for People would be legal
In December, the ECB itself came out with a public letter which broadly supports our view. The ECB said ‘helicopter money’ is legal, if it is designed within the monetary policy framework. This is probably the most insightful statement the ECB has ever made on this topic, which shows they are actually thinking about it!
9. We exposed the ECB’s support for climate change industry
We partnered with Corporate Europe Observatory to scrutinize the ECB’s corporate bonds purchases and found out that the ECB is indeed fueling polluting industries that are far away from the EU’s anti-climate change commitments. The report was mentioned in the Guardian and lots of other national media. Following up on this, Green MEPs decided to write a letter to the ECB.
10. We established a public-interest voice on monetary policy
In Europe list elsewhere, the debate one monetary policy is mostly dominated by the financial sector. We are the only European voice representing civil society in monetary policy issues. About 10,000 people are following the campaign. We are doing our best to make your voice heard!
2016 was incredibly busy and fruitful. Looking forward, 2017 looks even more exciting and promising. Yet new opportunities are emerging and more visible actions are becoming possible thanks to our growing list of supporters. Take part and join us!
Mario Draghi first discussed the notion of ‘helicopter money’ in March 2016, saying “it is an interesting concept.” Since then however, the head of the European Central Bank repeatedly stated that the idea that central banks could distribute money directly to citizens, was fraught with accounting-wise, technical and legal complexity.” However the ECB had declined at several occasion to specify in detail which were the foreseen legal obstacles.
In a letter dated 29 November to Spanish MEP Jonas Fernandez, the ECB finally provides clarifications. And our interpretation of the letter lead to the conclusion that those legal issues are very weak and solvable.
The QE for People campaign praises the ECB for finally providing this legal clarification. “By providing a detailed answer on this point, the ECB acknowledges its understanding of our proposal, which many economists say could bring significant benefits to the economy” said Stan Jourdan, QE for People campaign coordinator.
Helicopter money must be designed as monetary policy
Eighteen members of the European Parliament have signed an open letter to the Head of the European Central Bank, emphasizing the need to consider “helicopter money” — a proposal to distribute money directly to people as a citizens’ dividend.
Somewhere in March 2015, the European Central Bank (ECB) launched its long-awaited programme of quantitative easing (or QE), adding lots of public debt to the private kind it has already been buying. Its monthly purchases will rise from around €13 billion ($14 billion) to €60 billion until at least September 2016. The ECB is just the latest central bank to jump on board the QE bandwagon. Most rich-economy central bankers began printing money to buy assets during the Great Recession, and a few, like the Bank of Japan, are still at it. But what exactly is quantitative easing, and how is it supposed to work? Continue reading “Helicopter money or European Unconditional Citizens Income?”
With Eurozone growth still sluggish, should the European Central Bank (ECB) consider a radical option – like helicopter money?
ING senior economist Teunis Brosens explains, in this eZonomics video, that the ECB has already employed quantitative easing and lowered interest rates below zero. But how effective these measures will be is unclear, he says.