Report on Europe for the World Assembly of the CADTM international network Dakar from 13 to 16 November 2021

18 November 2021 by CADTM Europe

A section of online participants at the CADTM World Assembly

Synthesis of answers received from 10 countries: Italy, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal

 1. What is the current social, economic and political situation?

On the whole the situation is bad and has got worse with the impact of CoVid-19:

  • The political colours of governments vary according to countries; they are led by social-democracy in Portugal, Spain, Scandinavia and Croatia, by the far-right in Serbia, by parties claiming to be centre-right as in France, or by coalitions as in Germany until the elections end of September 2021, Belgium or Italy,… As a rule, a right-wing ideology prevails in the media and in the governments. No government has so far initiated real social policies. All are more or less caught in the neo-liberal logic. Most governments include technocrats who implement a neo-liberal if not nationalist ideology, notably in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary and Poland. Embezzlement and corruption are major issues in Serbia and Montenegro (while also present elsewhere).
  • The economic situations vary depending on whether we consider countries of the periphery such as Romania, Bulgaria, countries from the former Yugoslavia, euro area countries such as (Croatia, Greece, Spain, Portugal,…) or dominant economies such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, or again those in an intermediate position such as Italy. The general trend, however, is a worsening of the difficulties as a result of the Covid pandemic which badly impacted the economies and of the economic crisis that had started even before.
  • Consequently, the social situation is not favourable to the popular classes. The majority of the people are badly hit by job losses (or the absence of jobs), losses in incomes, more precarious contracts, governments’ attacks on the rights of workers and social rights in general.

 2. Is there a public debt crisis in the offing?

All countries have experienced a significant increase in their public debt, but the consequences are not the same everywhere. Roughly speaking, we can distinguish between

 3. What are the current major struggles? Are there significant victories or defeats?

On the whole protest movements have been hampered by the restrictive ‘health’ measures. While there have been some protests for climate justice – such as the mobilization during COP26 in November 2021 with some 100,000 demonstrators in the streets of Glasgow – and for social justice (in all its forms), as well as to defend Labour rights, these are not massive radical movements that could force governments to yield Yield The income return on an investment. This refers to the interest or dividends received from a security and is usually expressed annually as a percentage based on the investment’s cost, its current market value or its face value. . We must remember though that in Western Europe in 2020 we have had significant decolonial and anti-racist mobilizations (Black Lives Matter). In Poland women mobilized against the anti abortion law.

We can observe a significant decline of citizens’ confidence in parties and trade unions, to the benefit of more self-organized ‘civic’ movements. There has been a noticeable change in this respect over the last 5 to 10 years, without its so far resulting in any real victory.

 4. Are there struggles against illegitimate debt (whether public or private)?

On the whole, in EU countries, there is no significant questioning of public debt, of its payment, and even less any real struggle to expose illegitimate public debts. But NGOs in several countries claim the cancellation of debt (and illegitimate debts) of countries in the South.

On the other hand, we can note a questioning and mobilization against illegitimate private debts in the field of housing, health care, education etc., focusing on the role played by vulture funds Vulture funds
Vulture fund
Investment funds who buy, on the secondary markets and at a significant discount, bonds once emitted by countries that are having repayment difficulties, from investors who prefer to cut their losses and take what price they can get in order to unload the risk from their books. The Vulture Funds then pursue the issuing country for the full amount of the debt they have purchased, not hesitating to seek decisions before, usually, British or US courts where the law is favourable to creditors.

The transversal nature of debt has been brought out by the current crisis, and the issue of the debt is increasingly taken on board by citizens’ movements, including the youth who mobilize on the ecological issue.

 5. What are the main initiatives launched by the various organizations that are members of the CADTM network?

  • Political interpellations to cancel the debt of countries of the South and struggle against private creditors, notably towards the voting a law (Belgium/France)
  • Studies on debt (Italy)
  • Insisting on the public debt issue in political and alterglobalization contexts

 6. Are there continental initiatives or initiatives concerning several organisations in the same region?

 Debt situation in the EU

From March 2020 in connection with the multidimensional crisis that was hitting European countries, governments, the European Commission and the ECB ECB
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is a European institution based in Frankfurt, founded in 1998, to which the countries of the Eurozone have transferred their monetary powers. Its official role is to ensure price stability by combating inflation within that Zone. Its three decision-making organs (the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council) are composed of governors of the central banks of the member states and/or recognized specialists. According to its statutes, it is politically ‘independent’ but it is directly influenced by the world of finance.
adopted a policy of ‘whatever it may cost’ to use a phrase of French president Macron. Strict rules against fiscal deficit were provisionally abandoned and governments made massive public loans, which resulted in a 15 to 20% debt increase in most countries.

Some left-wing people cheered. Governments with socialist participation as in Spain and Portugal rejoiced at the possibility to call on new European funds either as loans or as grants. Actually grants are very limited and conditioned on the implementation of new neoliberal structural measures. The CADTM denounces illusions about financial measures taken by the EU (see in French CADTM Europe had suggested another approach as early as April 2020:

EU policies on external debt:

In the context of the health crisis, Europe joined the call of the IMF and of the Paris Club Paris Club This group of lender States was founded in 1956 and specializes in dealing with non-payment by developing countries.

to suspend the debt service Debt service The sum of the interests and the amortization of the capital borrowed. of the most indebted countries for an initial period of 6 months, later extended to one year. This is insufficient for several reasons:

  • At the end of this period, their debt service will still have to be paid, which means that this measure is a mere temporary palliative that does not solve any structural problem.
  • - A large part of expenses during the pandemic have been exceptional expenses of public resources to tackle the health crisis.
  • The difficulty of getting access to vaccines, largely because of patents that were not lifted, also exacerbated North/South inequalities, notably in terms of trade dissymmetry. EU politicies induce future debts in countries of the South since they do not boost their manufacturing capacities or demand a lifting of patents (on the contrary, they opposed the lifting proposed by 105 countries of the Global South) and maintain an aggressive policy in terms of external trade.

CADTM Europe

Le CADTM Europe (Comité pour l’abolition des dettes illégitimes) est présent en Grèce, en France, en Belgique, en Espagne, en Suisse, en Italie, en Pologne. et au Luxembourg Au niveau mondial, le réseau CADTM est implanté dans plus d’une trentaine de pays.

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