The European Union imposes €27 billion in budget cuts on Belgium - the PTB wants to block it


Under the leadership of the Belgian Presidency of the EU, an agreement has been reached on the new budgetary rules. It's a new antidemocratic straithjacket that will force Belgium to make draconian cuts: "It's a budgetary straitjacket that drives the destruction of our public services and social rights. This text is even worse than what was proposed by the European Commission", reacts Marc Botenga, MEP for the PVDA-PTB.

UEFor Belgium, the aim is to save at least 27 billion euros over the next 7 years. "These new rules will lock in all social and economic policy for years to come," denounces Marc Botenga. "Adopting these rules amounts to depriving people of any alternative to neoliberal policy, even before the elections." The rules will be stricter than before. The agreement not only commits the federal and regional governments to working towards reducing public debt to 60% and the budget deficit to 3% of GDP, but will impose a trajectory towards a structural deficit of 1.5%. This is stricter than the Maastricht criteria, whose application stifled the Portuguese and Greek economies.”

Experts speak of a real "nuclear bomb" on the Belgian budget. Marc Botenga confirms: "These rules are a bombshell under our social spending. A bombshell under the public investment we need so badly today." The MEP fears a "social bloodbath" and recalls that in 2023, the Commission had already used this mechanism to attack automatic wage indexation. 

How was the federal government able to negotiate this, asks public finance professor Herman Mathijs (Ghent University). Officially, the PS and Ecolo, as well as the Dutch-speaking Socialists and Greens, are opposed to this return to austerity. They represent four of the seven government parties. At the European Parliament, Marc Botenga demanded that the Belgian government sabotage negotiations on budgetary rules by refusing to put them on the agenda. But behind the scenes, it was the Belgian government that negotiated the deal, with the full support of the Socialists and Greens. What cynicism.

The rules were supposed to be more flexible to allow investment. But this flexibility is extremely limited. "They talk about flexibility, but everything will have to be negotiated within the straitjacket. In exchange for a little respite, governments will be forced to introduce anti-social structural reforms." As any flexibility will have to be negotiated with the European Commission, this provision will above all benefit larger countries such as France, which carry more weight at the European Commission.

The PVDA-PTB also opposes derogations for military investments. "So we'll be hampering investment in a whole range of essential areas, but the big military multinationals will continue to benefit from public money," continues the MEP. “That's amazing. Together, the countries of the European Union already spend far more on the military than countries such as Russia or India. Let's use that money elsewhere."

The European Parliament still has to approve the new rules. “The Belgian government has to vote against the new rules. We will oppose it in the European Parliament.” In addition, a major European mobilization is important: "European trade unions set an example last December in Brussels. If we don't want these new rules to apply, we'll have to mobilize across Europe."

PVDA-PTB resolution and emergency mail action

The PVDA-PTB is calling for concrete action to block last weekend's agreement on new budget rules. In particular, the agreement still has to be validated by the EU Council in Brussels, and a whole series of its provisions require the unanimous agreement of the Member States. "If the Belgian government opposes, it can block a whole part of the agreement and thus scupper the adoption of these budgetary rules: that's exactly what it needs to do," says Peter Mertens, General Secretary and Federal Deputy of the PVDA-PTB.

The PVDA-PTB has urgently tabled a resolution to this effect in the Chamber, and is also launching an e-mail action to call on the Socialist and Green ministers in government.

"This new agreement will impose billions in budget cuts for Belgium in the years to come," explains Peter Mertens. "If this agreement goes through, it's a threat to our pensions, wages, healthcare, education and public services. It's also very serious from a democratic point of view, as it will bind all future Belgian governments at different levels into a straitjacket of austerity. It's incomprehensible that the Socialists and Greens are allowing this to happen. Now is the time for them to oppose it and make it a matter of principle," concludes Mertens.

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