Monday, 16 December 2013

Austerity stripping away Europe’s human rights: Council of Europe

“Austerity” measures imposed by international creditors on member-states are eroding the social and economic rights of people, says the Council of Europe.

Cuts in public expenditure and selective tax increases aimed at curbing public deficits have not achieved their stated aims. Instead the rights to decent work and adequate standards of living have rolled back, contributing to deepening poverty in Europe.

 The report notes that civil and political rights have also been eroded as some governments exclude people from having any say in austerity proposals, provoking large-scale demonstrations.

The latest twist is a revised draft law on public order in Spain that cracks down on civil disobedience. The law, if adopted, would mean that people could be fined up to €30,000 for insulting a government official, burning a flag, or protesting outside the parliament without a permit. Covering faces or wearing hoods at demonstrations would also be an offence. Judges would be able to impose fines of up to €600,000 for picketing at nuclear plants or airports or if demonstrators interfere with elections.

The EU Commission says it is unable to comment on the draft law because it is a national issue.

The Council of Europe in a report in October also condemned the Spanish police for their disproportionate use of force against anti- austerity protests. Undercover police at demonstrations are not held accountable for their actions, it says.

The report says that most national deficits did not result in unsustainable public expenditure from before the crisis but from the public rescue of financial markets. The rescue cost an estimated €41⁄2 trillion between 2008 and 2011. The economic downturn and historical unemployment rates means that the worst- affected member-states lost out on vital tax revenue. Those worst affected include children and young people, the disabled, the elderly with low pensions, and many women. 

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