Policy 4: Emergency Social Solidarity Programme (ESSP) - Yanis Varoufakis
We recommend that Europe embark immediately on an Emergency Social Solidarity Programme that will guarantee access to nutrition and to basic energy needs for all Europeans, by means of a European Food Stamp Programme modelled on its US equivalent and a European Minimum Energy Programme. These programmes would be funded by the European Commission using the interest accumulated within the European system of central banks, from TARGET 2 imbalances, profits made from government bond transactions and, in the future, other financial transactions or balance sheet stamp duties that the EU is currently considering.
Europe now faces the worst human and social crisis since the late 1940s. In member-states like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, but also elsewhere in the Eurozone, including core countries, basic needs are not being met. This is true especially for the elderly, the unemployed, for young children, for children in schools, for the disabled, and for the homeless. There is a plain moral imperative to act to satisfy these needs. In addition, Europe faces a clear and present danger from extremism, racism, xenophobia and even outright Nazism – notably in countries like Greece that have borne the brunt of the crisis. Never before have so many Europeans held the European Union and its institutions in such low esteem. The human and social crisis is turning quickly into a question of legitimacy for the European Union.
Reason for TARGET 2 funding
TARGET2 is a technical name for the system of internal accounting of monetary flows between the central banks that make up the European System of Central Banks. In a well balanced Eurozone, where the trade deficit of a member state is financed by a net flow of capital to that same member-state, the liabilities of that state’s central bank to the central banks of other states would just equal its assets. Such a balanced flow of trade and capital would yield a TARGET 2 figure near zero for all member-states. And that was, more or less, the case throughout the Eurozone before the crisis.
However, the crisis caused major imbalances that were soon reflected in huge
TARGET 2 imbalances. As inflows of capital to the periphery dried up, and capital began to flow in the opposite direction, the central banks of the peripheral countries began to amass large net liabilities and the central banks of the surplus countries equally large net assets.
The Eurozone’s designers had attempted to build a disincentive within the intra-Eurosystem real-time payments’ system, so as to prevent the build-up of huge
liabilities on one side and corresponding assets on the other. This took the form of charging interest on the net liabilities of each national central bank, at an interest rate equal to the ECB’s main refinancing level. These payments are distributed to the central banks of the surplus member-states, which then pass them on to their government treasury.
Thus the Eurozone was built on the assumption that TARGET2 imbalances would be isolated, idiosyncratic events, to be corrected by national policy action.
The system did not take account of the possibility that there could be fundamental structural asymmetries and a systemic crisis.
Today, the vast TARGET2 imbalances are the monetary tracks of the crisis. They trace the path of the consequent human and social disaster hitting mainly the deficit regions. The increased TARGET2 interest would never have accrued if the crises had not occurred. They accrue only because, for instance, risk averse
Spanish and Greek depositors, reasonably enough, transfer their savings to a Frankfurt bank. As a result, under the rules of the TARGET2 system, the central bank of Spain and of Greece have to pay interest to the Bundesbank – to be passed along to the Federal Government in Berlin. This indirect fiscal boost to the surplus country has no rational or moral basis. Yet the funds are there, and could be used to deflect the social and political danger facing Europe.
There is a strong case to be made that the interest collected from the deficit member-states’ central banks should be channelled to an account that would fund our proposed Emergency Social Solidarity Programme (ESSP). Additionally, if the EU introduces a financial transactions’ tax, or stamp duty proportional to the size of corprate balance sheets, a similar case can be made as to why these receipts should fund the ESSP. With this proposal, the ESSP is not funded by fiscal transfers nor national taxes.