EU Sustainable Finance
For more than a decade I’ve been trying to gain the support of local MEPs for our work in sustainable economic development and social purpose business.
This year, 2018, the EU has launched a program on sustainable finance and Molly Scott-Cato, our Green MEP for the South West says that “direct action and civil disobedience is needed to force governments to see that our survival as a species is at risk”.
It’s almost 10 years since the Economics for Ecology Conferences at Sumy State University gave us the opportunity to present the argument for a people-centered form of economics. It came in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008.
“Possibly this has escaped immediate attention in Ukraine, but, economists in the US as of the end of 2008 openly confessed that they do not know what to do. So, we invented three trillion dollars, lent it to ourselves, and are trying to salvage a broken system so far by reestablishing the broken system with imaginary money.Now there are, honestly, no answers. It is all just guesswork, and not more than that. What is not guesswork is that the broken — again — capitalist system, be it traditional economics theories in the West or hybrid communism/capitalism in China, is sitting in a world where the existence of human beings is at grave risk, and it’s no longer alarmist to say so.
“The question at hand is what to do next, and how to do it. We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must.”
For us, this means an economy where people come before shareholder value, something which seems to have been embraced by the Green Party, if only in policy statements.
Our own direct action in Ukraine had been alongside Maidan activists developing a strategy for long terms sustainability and after 10 years, a peaceful revolution had erupted into violence. Our work, described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine was something Maidan leaders called for when seeking EU support in 2014. I shared their appeal with South West MEPs.
“Support political reforms and economic development: When the new government is in place, support Ukraine financially to get on a path of sustainable economic revival. A kind of „Marshall Plan“, can bring long-term economic benefits to Ukraine and save it from otherwise imminent long-term default.”
As the ‘Marhall Plan’ for Ukraine had argued in 2006:
‘This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority — as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way. ‘
People-Centred business was coopted by the EU in 2013, when leaders of the European co-operative movement discussed the importance of people-centred events at a high-level conference in Brussels. The conference was hosted by MEP Gay Mitchell and jointly organised by Cooperatives Europe and Fair Trade Advocacy Office.
“Both Cooperatives Europe and Fair Trade have been actively engaged in promoting enterprises that place people and not profit at the heart of business.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fair Trade International, explained: “Businesses alone are not enough to tackle poverty; the EU should foster people-centred businesses. Cooperatives and Fair Trade have shown that they put high standards and strict rules on businesses, that they put people first, and still they are successful.”
Gay Mitchell’s Fianna Fail Party is a member of the centre right European People’s Party (EPP) group and soon after the EPP started to make plans for their own ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s PM wrote:
“Wonderful news we have from Malta following my participation in the Congress of the European People’s Party.
“We are very grateful to the EPP family for the crucial resolution to develop a long-term support plan for Ukraine, the so-called “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” adopted at the initiative of our Lithuanian partners!
“This resolution shows determination of Europe’s most influential political force to support our country on the way of reform, its efforts to help Ukraine implement its European aspirations by all possible means and to achieve compliance with the Copenhagen criteria for the EU membership under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. In other words, the European People’s Party has recognized Ukraine’s European prospects and is ready to help us achieve this strategic goal in tangible actions.”
With a price tag of 50 billion Euros, he has good reason to be grateful unlike those in greatest need.
In 2012, Commisioner Michel Barnier the VP of the EPP at the time had been fowarded our ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal from Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson. Barnier responded denying plagiarism, suggesting scope for future collaboration. Clearly that didn’t happen.
The EPP and its members have now coopted both the people-centered business model and the ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal, without attribution.
Now I don’t know what kind of direct action Molly Scott-Cato is going to get involved in, but do know it’s going to be supported by a comfortable salary and won’t involve too much personal risk. I know that a colleague who did take direct action, died in the trenches, while the EU and others turned a wilful blind eye to a crisis that led to the loss of many other lives.
In Molly’s words “We need to see a race to the top on sustainable development: to take the best examples of sustainable finance in action from across the EU and use these to identify minimum standards for all.”
That’s not going to be achieved by killing off those in the trenches or leading from a lectern.