YES Leaders’ declaration 2016

Here below the YES Leaders’ declaration adopted in Strasbourg on the 15th December 2016

The year 2016 has felt like a continuous wake-up call. For the first time, it has become acceptable to say that the European project might collapse. As much as European integration has been the result of political decisions, European disintegration is now becoming a possibility as a result of other political decisions, Brexit being the last one.

Our generation is yet probably the most European there has even been. We speak more languages, we are more connected, we are more educated than any generation before. Youth exchanges have never allowed so many young people to meet their European counterparts. Common commemorations of the century of the first world war have been reminding us that peace on our continent is not to be taken for granted. Yet, all of this will not be enough to save the European project.

After the Second World War, our grand-parents and grand-grand-parents saw in Europe the hope that such horrors would never happen again. Later, European economic integration came with more prosperity, access to new goods, better living and working conditions. In the 1980s and the 2000s joining Europe often meant access to fundamental freedoms after decades of dictatorship and authoritarianism.

Since 2008, our generation has only known the European Union in crisis. Job losses, increased precariousness and poverty, degraded public services as a result of austerity policies have become the daily reality of the young generation, increasingly wondering what European integration brings them. Great successes such as Erasmus, only benefit to a small minority of youngsters, and do not compensate for the feeling that choices have been made in the interest of finance instead of people. Furthermore Europe has been paralysed in front of the arrival of refugees, incapable of creating common solutions to common issues.

The weakness of European integration has become clear: a common space without common rules nor real solidarity can only generate the rule of the strongest, frustration and rejection. Far right movements and ideologies have used this anger in order to grow and are now closer to power than they have ever been since WW2. This surge is already harming our societies: in Hungary, fundamental freedoms are rolling back. In Poland, women rights are under attacks even though they are already in one of the worst situations in Europe. In France the National Front is by far first in the polls, in Italy euroscepticism and rejection of the political system is growing, leading to the resignation of one our social-democratic Prime ministers. In Turkey, entire populations are persecuted, journalists and political opponents are arrested, civil servants are fired and cannot leave the country. In Ukraine, oligarchs are supporting radical military groups, including neo-fascists.

We are witnessing a neoconservative backlash, including in the USA with the election of Donald Trump. Progressive ideas are losing electoral an ideological ground. The left is increasingly divided, failing to act together in order to resist both nationalism and neoliberalism. In spite of the deep need of a common progressive answer to these challenges, too often social democratic governments only pursue their national interest within European institutions.
We believe, on the opposite, that an even stronger European integration is necessary to overcome this deadlock.

As we have seen one week ago in Austria, it is possible to win against the far right. It is possible for progressive forces to unite around the European idea. It is possible to make young Europeans dream again of a better world. It is possible and we want to make it happen.

Not only do we need a clear common understanding of our vision for the future of Europe, but also a more ambitious strategy to face the challenges ahead. Our project cannot only be a series of demands that have a very limited chance of becoming reality. It needs to be part of a strategy to achieve these goals. Therefore we call for :

The possibility to lead progressive economic policies. Today it is virtually impossible to lead contra-cyclical economic policies even if we clearly need them. On the short term, we ask for investments in the future to be deducted from the deficit and debt calculations. Investing in higher education can have a positive impact on young people’s future. We need to develop new public services : to face the challenge of an ageing population as well as to respond to the need of refugees in terms of psychological support, housing, education, health. Likewise, investments in renewable energies and the reduction of energy consumption are not only good for jobs, they are a question of human survival. These ambitious projects have a cost, but it is much lower than the cost of austerity. If it was possible for Europe to afford the creation of social security systems and tremendous investments in infrastructures in the aftermath of WW2, it has to be possible to do the same now on the richest continent of the planet. On the longer run, treaties should be changed so that social rights and environmental standards take precedence over economic freedoms of capital.

An ambitious fight against tax evasion and avoidance. Recent financial scandals and whistleblowers have revealed the extent of the fraud led by multinational companies and wealthy individuals in order to avoid contributing to our societies. We argue in favour of much more wealth redistribution, legal sanctions to be put in place internationally against companies using these practices, and we encourage the European commission to keep chasing the big corporations which use loopholes in European legislation to avoid taxation. We call for the immediate implementation of the Financial Transaction Tax and for the establishment of common standards regarding taxes on corporate benefits.

Social Europe. Too long we have talked about social Europe without it becoming a reality. Yet it is clear today that we need Europe to protect and enhance social standards in order to secure people’s belief in the European project. The revision of the posted workers’ directive will be the opportunity to stop social dumping and unfair practices, and will benefit all European workers. Decent common standards in terms of minimum wage need to be established, either through law or collective bargaining to stop the race to the bottom. We advocate for the ban of 0 hour contracts and for employee status to be recognised more systematically in the shared economy. In the wake of digitalisation we advocate for a working time reduction in the context of providing decent work for all.

A debate on trade policies in the 21st century. Recent discussions on the free trade agreements TTIP and CETA lead us to ask for a public debate to be launched on the purpose of trade in modern societies. In a world of growing inequalities and an unprecedented environmental threat, we believe trade policies should be an instrument to build better societies. Citizens should always have the last word over multinational companies, this is why we are against mechanisms of private dispute settlement. Environmental and social standards, public policies, common goods, fundamental freedoms should not only be protected but also enhanced by these agreements. We also call for a growing attention to be paid on the environmental impact of the globalisation of production at times when we need to put everything in place to meet the targets set at the Paris climate agreement.

Fighting for equality and solidarity. Hate speech is more and more accepted as any other kind of speech in Europe. We stand firmly against any kind of racism, sexism and homophobia. It is crucial that left wing parties do not fall into the trap of running after the right wing ideology, fearing to lose their electorate because they would be too open. Equality and human rights are at the core of the socialist and democratic projects and cannot be negotiated, both in terms of action and narrative. This is why we call for inclusive policies regarding migrants, whether they are refugees or not. A common space requires common rules regarding asylum and migration in order to welcome and integrate newcomers in a decent way. We ask our governments to pay a particular attention to vulnerable groups such as women, children and LGBTI in their policies.
– Renewed democratic practices in our parties : Young people want a voice in choosing who will represent their ideas and in the making of political programmes. The path towards more democracy requires social democrats to organise people, encourage them, and enable more involvement of citizens and party members, including when it means being challenged in our habits and practices. At the European level, we call for a more open process regarding the socialist Spitzenkandidat that enables a larger pool of candidates to compete. Recent primary campaigns in progressive parties have shown that when they have a real choice, young people get involved.

– A common strategy to achieve our goals. Good declarations are not enough to change people’s lives. We also need brave political decision-makers who will stand up for their ideas in all circumstances, including under the pressure of markets and conservative forces. The change we want can only be achieved through a rough political battle with the right which might shake European institutions. But the cost of the status quo is much higher than that of short-term institutional disruption. Furthermore, grand coalitions at the European and national levels have recently weakened our political family’s message and credibility towards voters. We call on our parties to enhance their cooperation with other left and progressive forces which share our willingness to change the path of European integration, especially in the run up to the 2019 elections.



Young European Socialists

CSDY – Croatia
Demari Nuoret – Finland
Jong Socialisten – Belgium
Jong Socialisten – The Netherlands
Joventut Socialista de Catalunya – Catalunya
Juso – Switzerland
Jusos – Germany
Labour Youth – Ireland
Mouvement des Jeunes Socialistes – France
MSD – Czech Republic
SJD – Die Falken – Germany
SJÖ – Austria
SMS – Ukraine
Societas – Hungary
SONK – Finland
SSU – Sweden
Young Labour – United Kingdom

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