Despite a rocky start, the Covid-19 pandemic has ultimately demonstrated the European Union’s ability to come together to respond to a global emergency. Far too little has been responded to by this collective spirit of urgency in the current livelihood crisis.
Instead, it seems that each national government has been left to deal with the fallout on its own. Worse, it has been left to individual consumers to make the necessary changes to reduce their own energy use in preparation for a long, harsh winter.
Everyone should be ready to make whatever practical and safe adjustments they can in their own homes to help cut bills this winter. That’s only reasonable, because frugality is no longer an option for many; It will be a necessity for many families this winter, as underscored by today’s survey from this newspaper.
But individual action alone can no more make a significant difference in the cost of living crisis than in climate change. This requires collective action, both at national and EU level.
At the national level, attention is mainly focused on the budget. Better-than-expected corporate and personal income tax and VAT receipts, which resulted in a surplus of 6.3 billion euros in the first eight months of this year, have given Treasury Secretary Paschal Donohoe considerable leeway. How much of that earnings he’s willing to spend remains to be seen.
Much more needs to happen at EU level. The EU’s decision last week to price-cap Russian energy to limit the profits Vladimir Putin can divert to invade Ukraine is a welcome example of what collective action can achieve — even if Putin is in the would be able to pull the rug out from under Europe under the pretext of security concerns by summarily shutting down the Gazprom pipeline.
Previous guidelines, which authorize representative actions on behalf of consumers whose interests have been harmed by harsh corporate practices, offer a different model.
Getting through this winter will undoubtedly require more solidarity, which has underpinned the push to buy and share vaccines together during the pandemic. This was an example where action at the highest level of EU governance has proved both effective and popular, bolstering support for the institutions at a time when populist and nationalist movements were challenging the very purpose of the EU.
A collective approach to promoting independent and renewable energy sources is another example where working together could bring benefits to consumers. It is now clear that some EU member states have become far too dependent on cheap Russian energy, not least Germany. Germany was not to blame alone. Everyone has been mesmerized by cheap foreign energy. An end to this naivety has been imposed on everyone and the EU must respond as one, without resentment or rivalry.
The pandemic was a public crisis. The pressure on the hospitals could not be hidden. Measures to protect the public from Covid-19 have been dramatic and comprehensive, reinforced by consistent official messages.
The cost of living crisis is a silent emergency. It’s taking place behind closed doors as families struggle with rising expenses and are forced to make individual sacrifices. However, it requires no less an all-encompassing government response at all levels.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/collective-action-can-help-ease-cost-of-living-crisis-41959466.html Collective action can help alleviate the cost of living crisis