Europe must change direction to fight inequality

Europe must end austerity and turn towards a growth-friendly policy to reduce inequalities. This is the main message from the speakers on the second and last day of the Progressive Economy Forum in Brussels.
The Progressive Economy Annual Forum 2014, entitled 'Inequality: consequences for society, politics and people' today welcomed Joseph Stiglitz, economist and Nobel prizewinner, and Martin Schulz, the progressive candidate-designate for president of the European Commission. The conference also gathered S&D Euro MPs, academics, policymakers, experts and other stakeholders from around the world.
Opening the conference today S&D Group president Hannes Swoboda said:
"Progressive Economy is about an alternative to what is done today by the European Commission and the conservatives in the majority of member states. Our message is clear: we want a fundamental change in economic and social policy in Europe."
Martin Schulz stressed:
"Inequality has many faces. Inequality produces countless individual tragedies. But inequality also threatens the political, social and economic fabric of our societies as a whole."
He identified “three key battles” in the fight against inequality where the EU could make a difference: financial-market regulation, tax fraud and social dumping.
“Together we can stop the race to the bottom, where countries compete against each other on who has the lowest workers' rights, the lowest environmental standards, the lowest corporate tax rates. To make people’s lives better we must restore the primacy of politics over economy. And change our policies."
He continued by setting out the change Europe needs:
“A social market economy and welfare state. With guarantees of access for everyone to education, to health care, progressive taxation, social dialogue and partnerships, pensions and unemployment insurance. A society that puts people at its heart.”
In a detailed and well-received presentation, Joseph Stiglitz underlined: "the recession made things worse. For 99% of Americans, there was no recovery.”
He stressed the “need for a comprehensive progressive agenda” to reduce the gap between rich and poor. “There is no magic bullet”, he said and the problems have long been festering.
He stressed the need to focus on enhancing equality of opportunity through education; promoting full employment by ending austerity; and promoting industrial polices oriented towards innovation.
Martin Schulz's full speech is available here.

Joseph Stiglitz's presentation is available here.

In the afternoon, Joseph Stiglitz joined Jörg Asmussen, German secretary of state for employment and social affairs, Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg's minister for labour, and Professor Peter Bofinger of the University of Würzburg to discuss ways to exit the crisis.
They all agreed that Europe is not yet out of the crisis. The Economic and Monetary Union needs to be completed to protect Europe from new crisis. Those reforms should also include strengthening the social dimension of the EU.
Winners of the call for papers
Following the launch of a call for papers, the Progressive Economy board has decided to award 8 winners:
Alternatives to austerity
Giovanni Cozzi, Terry McKinley and Jo Michell – 'Employment-focused recovery for Europe: an alternative to austerity'
Daniela Gabor – 'A step too far? The European financial transaction tax and shadow banking'
Inequality & the crisis
Sem Vandekerckhove, Guy van Gyes and Maarten Good – 'Reassessing the impact of minimum wages on wage dispersion and employment: evidence from an institutionalised wage-bargaining system'
Reforming European economic governance
Jakob Kapeller, Bernhard Schütz and Dennis Tamesberger – ’From free to civilised markets: first steps towards Eutopia'
Rethinking economic policy
Angeles Sanchez-Dominguez and Maria J. Ruiz-Martos – 'A progressive approach to the measurement of regional performance in the European Union'
Georgia Kaplanoglou, Vassilis T. Rapanos and Ioanna C. Bardakas – 'Does fairness matter for the success of fiscal consolidation?'
Young Academic
Matteo Laruffa – 'The European economic governance: problems and proposals for institutional innovations'
Christopher Rauh – 'The political economy of early and college education – can voting bend the Great Gatsby curve?'
Find out more about the Progressive Economy initiative here.