OPINION

Off the official agenda

At 82,282,988, Germany has Europe’s biggest population. This demographic statistic is particularly important in light of the worrying trends that are reflected in the annual report issued by the Paritatische Wohlfahrtsverband, a German-based voluntary welfare association: the number of people living below the poverty line in Germany is estimated at 12.5 billion despite the fact that the country’s economy is growing and unemployment remains at a low level.

Furthermore, a large number of jobs are very badly paid, according to the report. The child poverty rate has also jumped to 19.2 percent – in other words, it affects one in five children.

Meanwhile, according to a European Commission report on employment and social developments in Europe in 2014, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Hungary were the EU member states that were worse hit by poverty and social exclusion during the crisis. Greece in particular is at the bottom of the EU tables.

The discussion about deepening poverty in Europe (let us focus on our continent for now) does not need to be on the official Eurogroup agenda. The signs are clear and indisputable, and despite any differences regarding definitions and meanings, they pose a problem for strong economies as well as weak ones. Self-delusion and pressing austerity can only make the situtation worse.

At times of turmoil, people are inclined to resort to conspiracy theorists and self-styled messiahs. This condition, combined with the economic deadlock, is also not included in the Eurogroup agenda but still determines the future of Europe. It feeds the continuing rise of far-right groups, Islamic extremism (as a theory exterminating the Other), violence, intolerance and antagonism between nations, religions and sexes.

To be sure, no Eurogroup meeting can adequetly capture or analyze the zeitgeist. However, none of the members can claim ignorance; that they could not have imagined the consequences of European poverty and aggressive austerity. If the credit crisis of 2007 caught all experts off guard, the social inequality of 2015 leaves no room for excuses and misunderstandings.