Ms Eva Kaili is President of the Research Centre for Equality and Equal Chances of the Greek Ministry of Interior, former Deputy of the Greek Parliament (2007-12) with PASOK, PhD candidate in International Political Economy in Piraeus University, journalist, architect, communication and IR consultant. Ms Kaili is vigorously involved in social action, most notably for the support of young people, environmental awareness, and against women trafficking. Ms Kaili is candidate MEP with the alliance “Olive Tree – Democratic Alignment” in Greece, endorsed by the Party of European Socialists (PES).
1. Do you believe that start-up businesses could efficiently tackle a part of youth unemployment?
Start-up mentality is crucial to revive the entrepreneurial spirit in the Greek real economy, however it is not the decisive factor for tackling the unemployment. Unemployment is a macroeconomic indicator dependent on several complicated variables. It is unavoidable to utilise a standard approach based on the “aggregates”, and in this approach start-up friendly economic environment is but one factor. First we need to keep interest rates low, to stabilise the economy through a return to the natural rate of inflation and a decisively accelerating quantity of money. Dealing with unemployment without the proper medication is like giving aspirins.
2. Women in the European Parliament are under-represented. What is your opinion on that?
It is disappointing that the engagement of women in the active political life is thus restricted, not only in Greece but also in a European-wide scale. However, we know that this established fact is challenged by a reversing trend that places more and more women in active political participation schemes. Hopefully this trend will overcome its anaemic nature and transform itself into a full-fledged trend. Low-representation, unequal salaries between men and women, lack of supportive structures for working women to have a family, sexual harassment, domestic violence ; these are not just policy shortcomings or legal cases. This is a reality. The years of crisis revealed that we need more providence and care and solidarity to guide our political choices. Women bring that. And this is not a stereotype. It is a pragmatic and rational tool of efficiency.
3. Do you consider austerity as the only economic policy for the years to come?
I believe that one of the reasons that led the economies of the European South to this dramatic depression was the monolithic view that austerity is the appropriate tool for an immediate fiscal consolidation. In macroeconomic terms, consolidation, though necessary, is a measure that affects the long-term prospects of the economy with short-term shocks. This short-termism undermined the functioning of the real economy, harmed the structure of our production capacity, shocked the credit system and marginalised the most productive personnel of our society, the human capital of our generation. I believe that it was necessary, not to exclude the consolidation per se, but to follow a much more pragmatic policy coupling the short-term measures, with long-term policies. Greece and Latvia are examples that EU should avoid in the future.
4. Why do you believe the EU is faced with extremely low levels of youth and labour mobility within its borders?
Europe, in its entirety, faced a dramatic productivity fall after the financial crisis of 2008-9. This caused an explosion of unemployment which made it even harder for the people of the South to move to the North. Moreover, the availability for new jobs in Northern EU was restricted to low-skill workers, whereas the demand for skilled personnel was limited to engineers, software developers, doctors, nurses and educators. Beyond those work sectors, the competition for job-placement was ferocious and the markets favoured locals who fulfil certain, sometimes tacit, language (or nationality) requirements. These factors deter the youth-labour mobility and rises walls between the EU member-states.
5. Abstention rates in the 2009 elections, especially for the youth, were appallingly high. Do you foresee a similar condition for the upcoming elections?
It is an issue of democracy and its institutions.
I am affraid that we are about to experience similar results this time as well. This is primarily because of the low understanding of how much the European policies affect our everyday life. This unawareness is further empowered by the luck of willingness of the political parties and their leaders to focus on a European agenda instead of their short-sighted temporary self-preservation interests. We need to understand that the source of decision, regulation and policy making for the major issues of every member-state lies in Brussels. Abstention is a luxury that no democracy can handle. We all need to be present.
6. It is highly probable that in the next European Parliament extreme right parties will eventually compose a political group under the prominent leadership of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. How you evaluate this scenario?
I think that reproducing the fear of a strong radical-Right presence in the next European Parliament, consolidates the prospects this fear to become a self-fulfilled-prophecy. Let me, instead, to express my trust to the aesthetic quality, educational level and political wisdom of the European citizens. I believe that our continent had enough of hate and intolerance during the previous century .The generation damaged by these tensions is still alive, with the power to vote. It is immposible to allow same damaged to happen to their children.
7. Greece is by far, and for the time being, the weakest member-state of Eurozone in terms of prosperity. Literally speaking, do you believe that under the current circumstances, social, economic, and political conditions can go worse?
I expect that things will go better from now on. The worse has been avoided. Now, we should prioritise the strategic need for the development of a pan-European safety net for those who were more harshly affected by the violent measures of fiscal consolidation. This is by far the most important policy to be pursued in the short-run. For the mid-run policy orientation, we should rapidly develop a set of active (not passive) programmes to fight both structural and cyclical unemployment among the youth as well as among the people who need a few years to go to retirement. Last but not least, we need too, a long-run policy orientation, aiming to shift-to-the-right the aggregate demand curve, so to use an economic phraseology, and for doing so we need a drastic program of strategic structural transformations in order to ameliorate the business environment, trade functions and citizen-state relations.Dimitris Rapidis