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Open letter: The EU's economic rules must allow for the necessary spending on people and climate


Towards the end of October, the Commission will present a proposal for a revised economic policy, including rules on how governments can borrow and spend on social and environmental causes. Ahead of the publication, 180 unions, civil society, think tanks and academics have come together to call for a new set of principles which aim at an economy that works for us all, scales up green public investment and promote human and planet wellbeing.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch!

Thomas Desdouits

Dear EU leaders,

The soaring cost of food and energy is plunging families across Europe into a cost-of-living crisis triggered by Covid-19-induced supply chain disruptions and worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The European Commission has proposed solutions, such as caps on profits from energy production. These short-term solutions are needed but must be complemented with a longer-term approach.

As civil society organisations, think tanks and trade unions, supported by academics from across the European Union, we believe this approach must address the underlying structural problems of our economic system. The economy is not delivering for most people in Europe, for younger generations and for our planet. Long-term solutions include rapid progress on the EU tax agenda, including a genuine reform of environmental taxes, as well as a deep reform of the EU’s fiscal framework - to support redistributive policies and a just green transition.

To ensure equity and justice, the wealthiest should carry the heaviest burden. We are urging you to tax polluting activities. The tax system must be strengthened, with socially balanced and progressive taxes. The richest should contribute the most and an ambitious and strict minimum corporate tax rate should be established across the EU to ensure the economy works for all. Without an ambitious progressive and gender-just taxation agenda, inequalities will continue to deepen, and the economy will continue to disproportionately benefit the wealthiest.

The Stability and Growth Pact - the rules that regulate national budgets - must be amended through a democratic and open process. Reform of such importance must not happen behind closed doors and instead should follow a democratic and transparent process that includes a formal role for the European Parliament (ordinary legislative procedure).

With the European Commission soon to launch its proposals to reform the EU’s economic governance, especially regarding fiscal rules, there is a unique opportunity to start a fresh chapter in European economic policy-making. This new chapter must ensure the EU’s fiscal rules are consistent with agreed EU macro-economic, social, and environmental goals, and establish a new approach to member state fiscal policies. Therefore, we are calling upon you to ensure the following principles are at the core of the reform:

  • Build a future-proof economy with jobs for all - Allow fiscal flexibility to target a fully employed economy with decent and well-paid clean jobs available to all.
  • Fill the green funding gap and make Europe energy independent from fossil fuels - Targeted and scaled-up green public investment is needed to remain below the 1.5 Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. A reformed fiscal framework should ensure the alignment of Member States’ public spending with the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as other environmental objectives including reducing resource use and zero pollution.
  • Reinvest in public services and social protection - Social expenditure must guarantee universal access to quality basic public services, as well as a social safety net, so no one falls through the cracks and the care economy is central.
  • Target human, economic and environmental well-being - Make durable well-being the primary objective of EU economic policy by establishing adequate indicators within the EU’s fiscal policy framework and making sure the rules do not translate again into austerity. Economic growth as a primary objective does not work and governments should rather aim to achieve improved human, economic and environmental outcomes.

Given environmental breakdown is a prolonged and structural crisis, rather than a temporary one, preemptive spending and investment today is a must. It will also mean guaranteeing a good quality of life for all, better public services, and a more sustainable ecosystem for future generations.

The new European economic governance framework and ambitious common taxation rules need to be fit for the decades to come. If designed in the right way, they could reduce social inequalities, reinvigorate trust in the EU and democratic institutions, and help build bridges between the people of Europe.

With this review, we have an opportunity to design a fairer system built around a future-proof economy with jobs for all, solidarity and sustainability. We urge you to seize that opportunity without further delays.

Yours sincerely,
180 signatories
: trade unions, civil society organisations, think tanks and academics

Trade Unions:

  • Arbeiterkammer, Austria
  • CNV, Netherlands
  • Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV-CSC), Belgium
  • European Trade Union Confederation, European organisation
  • European Trade Union Federation representing retired, pensioners and elderly people (Ferpa), European organisation
  • Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), Finland
  • General Union of Workers (UGT), Spain
  • IndustriAll Europe, International organisation
  • Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy
  • Italian Labour Union (UIL), Italy
  • La Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT), France
  • The Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), Austria
  • The General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (ACLVB-CGSLB), Belgium

Civil Society:

  • Bond Beter Leefmillieu, Belgium
  • Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz e.v., Germany
  • CATAPA, Belgium
  • CEEweb for Biodiversity, Hungary
  • Citizens Climate Europe, European Organisation
  • Clean Air Action Group, Hungary
  • Climate Action Network Europe, European organisation
  • CNCD-11.11.11, Belgium
  • Czw Climaxi, Belgium
  • Degrowth Collective Toronto, Canada
  • Deutscher Naturschutzring, Germany
  • Electra Energy Cooperative, Greece
  • Eurodiaconia, European organisation
  • European Anti-Poverty Network, European organisation
  • European Environmental Bureau, European organisation
  • European Youth Forum, European organisation
  • Federation of Environmental Organisations in Cyprus (FEOC NGOs), Cyprus
  • Finance Watch, European organisation
  • FiscalFuture, Germany
  • France Nature Environment, France
  • Fridays for Future, Sweden
  • Friends of the Earth Europe, European organisation
  • Green Liberty, Latvia
  • Greenpeace, European organisation
  • Greentervention, European organisation
  • Lifelong Learning Platform, European organisation
  • Mange Ram Adhana, India
  • Mensa Civica, Spain
  • Naturefriends Greece, Greece
  • Naturfreunde Internationale, International organisation
  • Nyt Europa, Denmark
  • OBESSU - Organising Bureau of European School Student Union, Denmark
  • Oikos - Cooperação e Desenvolvimento, International organisation
  • OXYFIN, Belgium
  • Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland
  • Positive Money, United Kingdom
  • Positive Money Europe, European Organisation
  • PowerSchift e.V., Germany
  • Public Association Republican Center "Gutta-Club", Czech Republic
  • Rural Area Development Programme (RADP), Nepal
  • SDG Watch Europe, European organisation
  • Social Platform, European organisation
  • Solidar, European organisation
  • SumOfUs, International organisation
  • TDM 2000 International, Italy
  • Umanotera, Slovenia
  • Umweltdachverband, Austria
  • Urgenda Foundation, Netherlands
  • VšĮ "Žiedinė ekonomika", Lithuania
  • WEED - World Economy, Ecology and Development, Germany
  • Womens Empowerment Against Poverty of Nepal (WEAPoN), Nepal
  • WWF Latvia, Latvia
  • Young European Federalists (JEF Europe), European organisation
  • Youth Express Network, France
  • ZERO - Association for Sustainability of the Earth System, Portugal

Think Tanks:

  • Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India
  • Eco-union, Spain
  • European Economists for an Alternative Economic Policy in Europe, European organisation
  • Feasta, Ireland
  • Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), European organisation
  • Modern Money Network, United States
  • Nevin Economic Research Institute, Ireland
  • New Economics Foundation, United Kingdom
  • Nicos Poulantzas Institute, Greece
  • Our New Economy, International organisation
  • Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PIME), United Kingdom
  • Sustainable Finance Lab and Erasmus University Rotterdam, International organisation
  • Transnational Institute, Netherlands
  • Trinità dei Monti, Italy
  • Veblen Institute for Economic Reforms, France
  • Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, Austria


  • Abderrahim Taamouti, Liverpool University, United Kingdom
  • Alessio Moneta, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Italy
  • Alexander Guschanski, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom
  • Andrew Jackson, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
  • Angela Pérez , Friedrich Alexander Universität , Germany
  • Apostolos Vetsikas, University of Thessaly, Greece
  • Bastiaan van Apeldoorn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Bert de Vries, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Christina Teipen, HWR Berlin, Germany
  • Constantin Gurdgiev, Monfort College of Business, University of Northern Colorado, USA
  • Daniele Tori, The Open University Business School, United Kingdom
  • David Bokhorst, European University Institute, Netherlands
  • David Cayla, University of Angers, France
  • Deepa Driver, University of Reading, United Kingdom
  • Dirk Ehnts, none, Germany
  • Eladio Febrero, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
  • Elke Weik, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • Emanuele Citera, St. Lawrence University, USA
  • Ettore Gallo, The New School for Social Research, USA/Italy
  • Felix FitzRoy, University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom
  • Gary Dymski, University of Leeds, UK
  • Giorgos Kallis, ICTA-UAB, Spain
  • Giovanni Dosi, Sant'anna School of Advanced studies, Italy
  • Gracjan Bachurewicz, Gdansk University of Technology, Poland
  • Hans Schenk, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Isabelle Ferreras, FNRS/UCLouvain/Royal Academy of Belgium, Belgium
  • Jan Schulz-Gebhard, Plurale Ökonomik Bamberg, Germany
  • Jason Hickel, ICTA-UAB, Spain
  • Jayati Ghosh, University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States
  • Jens van 't Klooster, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Jeremy Leaman, Loughborough University, Emeritus Research Fellow, United Kingdom
  • Jim Jin, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
  • Jo Michell, University of the West of England, US
  • Johannes Schmidt, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Jonas Van der Slycken, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Jonathan Perraton, Sheffield University, United Kingdom
  • Jorge Uxó, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
  • Joscha Wullweber, Witten/Herdecke University, Germany
  • José Antonio Pérez Montiel, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
  • Josh Ryan-Collins, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UK
  • Klaas van Egmond, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Ladislau Dowbor, PUC-SP, Brazil
  • Laurence Scialom, université Paris Nanterre, France
  • Lea Steininger, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
  • Lisa Herzog, University of Groningen, Netherlands
  • Louison Cahen-Fourot, Roskilde University, Denmark
  • Luisa Giuriato, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
  • Malcolm Sawyer, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
  • Marc Lavoie, University Sorbonne Paris Nord, France
  • Marco Di Pietro, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
  • Marcus Miller, University of Warwick, UK
  • Maria del Pilar Domec Espinoza, São Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil
  • Maria Nikolaidi, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom
  • Marie-Annick BARTHE, Université de Paris Cité, France
  • Marija Bartl, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Mark Blyth Brown, University, USA
  • Mark Sanders, Maastricht University, Netherlands
  • Martina Metzger, Professor of Monetary Economics, Berlin School of Economics and Law / Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, Germany
  • Matthias Kranke, University of Kassel, Germany
  • Mattia Pettena, University of Genoa, Italy
  • Michael Edwards, University College London, UK
  • Michael Landzelius , University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Muhammad Ali Nasir, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
  • Neil Lancastle, De Montfort University, United Kingdom
  • Nick Fitzpatrick, NOVA Lisbon, Portugal
  • Nik de Boer, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Olga Mikheeva, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Ozlem Onaran, University of Greenwich, Institute of Political Economy, Governance, Finance and Accountability, United Kingdom
  • Pasqualina Porretta, Sapienza, Italy
  • Peter Adamovsky, University of Economics in Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Philippe De Vreyer, Paris Sciences et Lettres - Université Paris-Dauphine, France
  • Rebecca Rutt, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Rens van Tilburg, Sustainable Finance Lab Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Richard J. White, Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom
  • Richard Murphy, Sheffield University Management School, United Kingdom
  • Rick van der Ploeg, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Robert Calvert Jump, University of Greenwich UK
  • Roberto Grandinetti, University of Padova, Italy
  • Rogier Claessen, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Rosa Garcia-Hernández, UAB (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Barcelona
  • Rosaria Rita Canale, University of Naples "Parthenope", Italy
  • Sergio Rossi, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Simon Mohun, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom
  • Simon Schairer, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany
  • Stefania Zanda, Sapienza, Italy
  • Stephanie Manea, SOAS University of London, United Kingdom
  • Stephen Keen, UCL, Netherlands
  • Steve Keen, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Sue Konzelmann, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Susan Himmelweit, Open University, United Kingdom
  • Sylvain Zeghni, Université Gustave Eiffel, France
  • Thibault Laurentjoye, Aalborg University Business School, Denmark
  • Thomas E. Lambert, University of Louisville USA
  • Thomas Lagoarde-Segot, KEDGE BS and SDSN France, France
  • Tim Jackson University of Surrey, UK
  • Ulrich Demmer, LMU Munich University, Institute of Social Anthropology, Germany
  • Vincenzo Denicolò, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Vivien A. Schmidt, Boston University and Luiss Guido Carli University, USA and Italy
  • Yannis Dafermos, SOAS University of London, United Kingdom

The open letter is also available in French, German, Greek and Polish.

We sent it to:

  • Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament
  • Charles Michel, President of the European Council
  • Petr Fiala, President of the Council of the European Union
  • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
  • Pascal Donohoe, President of the Eurogroup

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