The power of democracy against the power of finance

This elections year, it is hard to imagine that European citizens will be satisfied with shallow political promises: they are furiously standing up against business as usual.

All over Europe, youth climate strikers are hitting the streets of cities and pushing to exit our brown, fossil fuel-based economy, which is supported by financial investors because it is (still) more profitable. In France, ordinary working people put on their yellow jackets and staged roadblocks for the whole of winter to protest against the government’s pro-finance, pro-business economic programme. In Greece, pensioners have held countless demonstrations against austerity policies, which led to cuts in their pensions, medicines, health insurance and to social exclusion in order to repay large amounts of borrowed money that mainly bailed-out German and French banks.

In actual fact, all these protests are linked because our environmental and social crises are consequences of the politics of financialisation that have transformed our entire economies and lives over the last thirty years. But how can we embark on a new path towards a more sustainable economy? Ahead of the European Elections, Finance Watch has checked what the political groups actually commit to in their manifestos to help European citizens cast an informed vote.

Some of their ideas only treat the symptoms and not the cause of our current issues. An example of this is putting more responsibility on the shoulders of consumers – one can hardly choose a truly green lifestyle in a brown environment. “Modernising” our economies by tightening public spending capacity is not a solution either: only States have a real interest in redirecting capital flows to a more sustainable economy, for the long-term sake of their citizens. The financial sector itself won’t do it, short-term gains and stakeholder remuneration still being its main incentives.

Other parties seem to have understood that we need to fundamentally reform our financial system by making it more stable with the help of higher capital requirements, bank separation and a financial transaction tax. They also want finance to become more democratic, including by guaranteeing access to basic financial services and by making the EU institutions more accountable.

Citizens have the power to choose and our democracies have the power to change the rules by which economic and financial actors have to play. This can only happen though if we also set up rules to limit the influence of the financial lobby over our policymakers, by increasing lobby transparency and introducing stronger rules on conflicts of interest and revolving doors. Find out how you can help!

It is high time that we use the power of democracy against the power of finance to collectively shape a new financial system that citizens can trust and support, that delivers a fair and sustainable future.