Crises on all fronts: what can Europe do?
The climate crisis, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are having an ever stronger impact on the global economic situation, according to the IMF. Rising costs - particularly for energy and food - are hitting people hard and curbing production, which has already decreased as a result of interrupted supply chains. Poorer countries are facing hunger. Europe's governments are trying out different strategies to help their citizens cope.
Respond wisely to rising prices
The Portuguese government is right to offer extra support only to those households worst affected by inflation, Observador comments:
“Whether this will also make the economy more resilient against supply shocks remains to be seen. ... We need to resist the temptation to hand out money or even break the rules on raising prices even more than in less indebted countries, because we would be more exposed to a potential financial storm. We must take advantage of this increase in prices to reduce public deficits and debt.”
Austrian model could lead the way
Falter praises the Viennene government's plan for reducing electricity costs:
“The model of cushioning the impact of inflation with free energy quotas could set a precedent throughout the EU. ... Instead of giving the most handouts to the wealthy who have the biggest cars and biggest flats, as happens with price 'capping', this measure supports the 'financially weak' by giving them a certain percentage of their electricity for free, because the state pays this part of their bill. The model has several advantages: even those who receive a free quota would have to pay for consumption above that quota, which actually encourages further energy saving, whereas capping can have the opposite effect.”
Aid packages detrimental to energy transition
After a lengthy debate, France's parliament has passed a bill to boost household buying power by an additional 30 billion euros. This comes on top of the cap on energy prices and the fuel discount. For Le Monde, the measure is short-sighted:
“After an election campaign that revolved almost entirely around consumer spending it is understandable that the parties are trying to outbid each other in this area. And there is no denying the difficulties faced by rural communities. ... Or the problems of low-income earners, who need support. But climate protection is too serious an issue to neglect. The longer we subsidise fuel, the harder it will be to change people's habits.”
Justice must be a priority
System change is inescapable, warns columnist Mark Lievisse Adriaanse in NRC Handelsblad:
“Economically, we are not talking about more or less, so much as different. People are willing to make sacrifices for a higher goal (peace in Ukraine; the fight against climate change), but not endlessly and not disproportionately. A social contract entailing loss of wealth can only be fair and tenable if those who have a lot lose more. ... An unjust proletarianisation of the middle class driven by rising prices, and a policy that fails to engage in a dialogue about a good society is a political time bomb. This is the question of our time: how to distribute the burdens caused by the climate crisis and the shifting world order?”