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Global Compact for Migration adopted by 164 Governments
by UN News, agencies
 
10 December 2018
 
The Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by leading representatives from 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in an historic move described by UN Chief António Guterres as the creation of a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos”.
 
Speaking at the opening intergovernmental session, Mr. Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two “simple ideas”.
 
“Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”
 
The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty.
 
“Moreover, it is not legally-binding. It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.
 
The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only the fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labour, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.”
 
Acknowledging that some States decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”
 
The United States Trump administration did not endorse the Compact (and lobbied other countries not to endorse it), and more than a dozen other countries either chose not to sign the accord or are still undecided.
 
Along with Climate Change, unregulated migration has become a pressing issue in recent years. Every year, thousands of migrants lose their lives or go missing on perilous routes, often fallen victim to smugglers and traffickers.
 
Mr. Guterres welcomed the overwhelming global support for the pact, saying that for people on the move, “voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.”
 
The adoption of the pact, now known as Marrakech Compact, coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which is central to the pact. Mr. Guterres said “it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.”
 
After the adoption, the UN chief told journalists that “it was a very emotional moment” for him when he saw “the members of the conference unanimously in acclamation” adopt the Compact.
 
It was fitting that the conference is taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, a major migration route for centuries. UN data shows that globally more than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000, prompting the Secretary-General to call it “a source of collective shame.”
 
UN senior migration official Ms. Louise Arbour, tasked with overseeing the process, applauded the adoption, calling it “wonderful occasion, really a historic moment and a really great achievement for multilateralism.”
 
She congratulated Member States for working “very hard to resolve differences, to understand the complexities of all questions related to human mobility for the last 18 months.”
 
Ms. Arbour, who is the UN Special Representative for International Migration, said the Compact “will make an enormous positive impact in the lives of millions of people – migrants themselves, the people they leave behind and the communities that will then host them.” She revealed that this will depend on the implementation of the Global Compact’s initiatives.
 
Representing civil society and youth at the conference opening, children right’s activist Cheryl Perera, spoke of her volunteer work against child trafficking. She urged the delegates to make full use of the opportunity the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) provides.
 
“The GCM offers a historic opportunity now for you to deliver on your existing obligations to protect children and invest in young people all around the world. But it doesn’t end here. You need to address the underlying risks of forced and unsafe migration, like climate change, social political exclusion, disasters and inequality, and you need once and for all to end immigration detention,” she said, adding that everyone needed to do more “to prevent trafficking and protect victims. You need to stop criminalizing migrants.”
 
The longstanding German Chancellor Angela Merkel, welcomed the adoption saying that it was high time the international community came to a more realistic understanding over global migration.
 
Ms. Merkel warned that the “go it alone approach will not solve the issue,” stressing that multilateralism is the only possible way forward. She admitted that her country – which has already welcomed more than a million migrants and refugees in recent years from countries such as Syria - will need more skilled labour from outside the European Union and has a vested interested in legal migration. But she also reaffirmed that Member States must tackle illegal migration and clearly commit to effective border protection to prevent human trafficking, as put forward in the Compact.
 
“States cannot accept that traffickers are the ones deciding who crosses into countries. We must settle such matters among us”, Ms. Merkel said. http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/
 
http://unfoundation.org/blog/post/6-facts-about-migration-you-should-know/


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A Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe
by Thomas Piketty, Antoine Vauchez
Social Europe, Le Monde Diplomatique, agencies
France
 
Dec. 2018
 
Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe, by Thomas Piketty and Antoine Vauchez. (Social Europe, agencies)
 
In a critical moment for Europe, this Manifesto proposes to escape immobilism and abstract discussions by putting on the table a concrete plan to democratise both European institutions and policies, with a view to bringing more fiscal and social justice and to effectively address Europe’s environmental and migration emergencies.
 
The new European governance that has consolidated over the past decade in the wake of the financial crisis is not only opaque and unaccountable as epitomized by the Eurogroup; it is also ideologically biased towards economic policies with an almost exclusive focus on financial and budgetary objectives.
 
Unsurprisingly, Europe has proved unable to take up the challenges with which it is confronted: growing inequalities across the continent, the acceleration of global warming, the influx of refugees, structural public under-investment (most notably in universities and research), tax fraud and evasion…
 
Our proposal empowers those member states that wish to address the current political and social crisis of the European project by proposing a budget of long-term investments in public assets of a European scale with a view to fighting social inequalities at EU level, and to securing the long-term viability of a genuine political model of social, fair and sustainable development in Europe.
 
Financing of the Budget is based on fiscal solidarity through the creation of four European taxes (on high incomes, on wealth, on carbon emissions and a harmonized corporate profits’ tax).
 
To date, European integration has primarily benefited the most powerful and most mobile economic and financial agents: major multinationals, households with high incomes and large assets. Europe will only reconnect with its citizens if it proves it has the ability to bring about genuine European solidarity, by having the main beneficiaries of the globalization process fairly contribute to the financing of the public goods Europe desperately needs.
 
Such policies are virtually impossible in the current institutional framework, in particular because of the veto right of each country preventing any common fiscal policy. The Treaty for the democratization of Europe (T-Dem) sets the stage for a renewed democratic framework where these new economic policies, in particular the Budget, would not only be possible but also legitimate.
 
By creating a European Assembly in charge of deliberating and voting upon this Budget, member states can put themselves in a position to tax fairly the most prosperous actors and thus to finance the proposed common budget.
 
With its mixed composition, including national and European members of Parliament, the European Assembly would also have the legitmacy to act as a counter-balance to the ever-growing impact of Europe’s economic governance on national social pacts.
 
Manifesto for the democratization of Europe
 
We, European citizens, from different backgrounds and countries, are today launching this appeal for the in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies. This Manifesto contains concrete proposals, in particular a project for a Democratization Treaty and a Budget Project which can be adopted and applied as it stands by the countries who so wish, with no single country being able to block those who want to advance. It can be signed on-line (www.tdem.eu) by all European citizens who identify with it. It can be amended and improved by any political movement.
 
Following Brexit and the election of anti-European governments at the head of several member countries, it is no longer possible to continue as before. We cannot simply wait for the next departures, or further dismantling without making fundamental changes to present-day Europe.
 
Today, our continent is caught between political movements whose programme is confined to hunting down foreigners and refugees, a programme which they have now begun to put into action, on one hand. On the other, we have parties which claim to be European but which in reality continue to consider that hard core liberalism and the spread of competition to all (States, firms, territories and individuals) are enough to define a political project. They in no way recognise that it is precisely this lack of social ambition which leads to the feeling of abandonment.
 
There are some social and political movements which do attempt to end this fatal dialogue by moving in the direction of a new political, social and environmental foundation for Europe. After a decade of economic crisis there is no lack of these specifically European critical situations: structural under- investment in the public sector, particularly in the fields of training and research, a rise in social inequality, acceleration of global warming and a crisis in the reception of migrants and refugees.
 
But these movements often have difficulty in formulating an alternative project, and in describing precisely how they would like to organise the Europe of the future and the decision-making infrastructure specific to it.
 
We, European citizens, by publishing this Manifesto, Treaty and Budget, are making specific proposals publicly available to all. They are not perfect, but they do have the merit of existing. The public can access them and improve them. They are based on a simple conviction. Europe must build an original model to ensure the fair and lasting social development of its citizens.
 
The only way to convince them is to abandon vague and theoretical promises. If Europe wants to restore solidarity with its citizens it can only do so by providing concrete proof that it is capable of establishing cooperation between Europeans and by making those who have gained from globalisation contribute to the financing of the public sector goods which are cruelly lacking in Europe today.
 
This means making large firms contribute more than small and medium businesses, and the richest taxpayers paying more than poorer taxpayers. This is not the case today.
 
Our proposals are based on the creation of a Budget for democratization which would be debated and voted by a sovereign European Assembly. This will at last enable Europe to equip itself with a public institution which is both capable of dealing with crises in Europe immediately and of producing a set of fundamental public and social goods and services in the framework of a lasting and solidarity-based economy.
 
In this way, the promise made as far back as the Treaty of Rome of ‘harmonisation of living and working conditions’ will finally become meaningful.
 
This Budget, if the European Assembly so desires, will be financed by four major European taxes, the tangible markers of this European solidarity. These will apply to the profits of major firms, the top incomes (over 200,000 Euros per annum), the highest wealth owners (over 1 million Euros) and the carbon emissions (with a minimum price of 30 Euros per tonne).
 
If it is fixed at 4% of GDP, as we propose, this budget could finance research, training and the European universities, an ambitious investment programme to transform our model of economic growth, the financing of the reception and integration of migrants and the support of those involved in operating the transformation. It could also give some budgetary leeway to member States to reduce the regressive taxation which weighs on salaries or consumption.
 
The issue here is not one of creating a ‘Transfer payments Europe’ which would endeavour to take money from the ‘virtuous’ countries to give it to those who are less so. The project for a Treaty of Democratization (www.tdem.eu) states this explicitly by limiting the gap between expenditure deducted and income paid by a country to a threshold of 0.1% of its GDP.
 
The real issue is elsewhere: it is primarily a question of reducing the inequality within the different countries and of investing in the future of all Europeans, beginning of course with the youngest amongst them, with no single country having preference.
 
Because we must act quickly but we must also get Europe out of the present technocratic impasse, we propose the creation of a European Assembly. This will enable these new European taxes to be debated and voted as also the budget for democratization. This European Assembly can be created without changing the existing European treaties.
 
This European Assembly would of course have to communicate with the present decision-making institutions (in particular the Eurogroup in which the Ministers for Finance in the Euro zone meet informally every month). But, in cases of disagreement, the Assembly would have the final word.
 
If not, its capacity to be a locus for a new transnational, political space where parties, social movements and NGOs would finally be able to express themselves, would be compromised. Equally its actual effectiveness, since the issue is one of finally extricating Europe from the eternal inertia of inter-governmental negotiations, would be at stake.
 
We should bear in mind that the rule of fiscal unanimity in force in the European Union has for years blocked the adoption of any European tax and sustains the eternal evasion into fiscal dumping by the rich and most mobile, a practice which continues to this day despite all the speeches. This will go on if other decision-making rules are not set up.
 
Given that this European Assembly will have the ability to adopt taxes and to enter the very core of the democratic, fiscal and social compact of Member states, it is important to truly involve national and European parliamentarians. By granting national elected members a central role, the national, parliamentary elections will de facto be transformed into European elections.
 
National elected members will no longer be able to simply shift responsibility on to Brussels and will have no other option than to explain to the voters the projects and budgets which they intend to defend in the European Assembly. By bringing together the national and European parliamentarians in one single Assembly, habits of co- governance will be created which at the moment only exist between heads of state and ministers of finance.
 
This is why we propose, in the Democratization Treaty available on-line (www.tdem.eu), that 80% of the members of the European Assembly should be from members of the national parliaments of the countries which sign the Treaty (in proportion to the population of the countries and the political groups), and 20% from the present European parliament (in proportion to the political groups). This choice merits further discussion.
 
In particular, our project could also function with a lower proportion of national parliamentarians (for instance 50%). But in our opinion, an excessive reduction of this proportion might detract from the legitimacy of the European Assembly in involving all European citizens in the direction of a new social and fiscal pact, and conflicts of democratic legitimacy between national and European elections could rapidly undermine the project.
 
We now have to act quickly. While it would be desirable for all the European Union countries to join in this project without delay, and while it would be preferable that the four largest countries in the Euro zone (which together represent over 70% of the GNP and the population in the zone) adopt it at the outset, the project in its totality has been designed for it to be legally and economically adopted and applied by any sub-set of countries who wish to do so.
 
This point is important because it enables countries and political movements who so desire to demonstrate their willingness to make very specific progress by adopting this project, or an improved version, right now. We call on every man and woman to assume his or her responsibilities and participate in a detailed and constructive discussion for the future of Europe. http://tdem.eu/
 
* Drafted by the following seven authors: Manon Bouju, économiste, Lucas Chancel, vice-président du World Inquality Lab, Paris School of Economics, Anne-Laure Delatte, economiste, CNRS Research fellow, Stephanie Hennette-Vauchez, juriste, professeure à l’Université Paris Nanterre, Thomas Piketty, economiste, professeur à la Paris School of Economics et à l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Guillaume Sacriste, politiste, maître de conférence à l’Université Paris 1-Sorbonne, Antoine Vauchez, politiste, CNRS Research professor, Université Paris 1-Sorbonne and signed by scores of others.
 
http://www.socialeurope.eu/manifesto-for-the-democratization-of-europe
 
Dec. 2018
 
France’s unfair taxes have driven the Yellow Vest protest movement, by Alexis Spire. (Le Monde Diplomatique, The Nation)
 
The range of slogans in the protests against November’s gasoline-price increases—“Stop the taxes!” “Macron’s a pickpocket!,” “Working is becoming a luxury,” “Right and left = taxes,” “Stop the racket, the revolt of a powerful people may end in revolution”—suggests both the possible emergence of a political movement and the anger directed at taxation, the very foundation of the social state.
 
Throughout the 20th century, there was minimal working-class engagement with the issue of tax. When progressive income tax was introduced after World War I, the main opposition came from the liberal professions, the self-employed, and farmers, who formed tax payers’ associations. Thereafter, except during the Popular Front (1936-1938), the theme of unfair taxation had only a marginal place in the labor movement compared to key issues such as wage demands and defending jobs. Even regressive, indirect taxes on consumption such as value added tax (VAT) have rarely had the power to mobilize unions and parties on the left.
 
But in the past few years challenges to the taxation system have gained such momentum that tax has become a central issue in the anti-austerity struggle. In Portugal, in May 2010, tens of thousands demonstrated against tax rises and spending cuts. Two years later there were big demonstrations in Spain against austerity, privatizations, and higher VAT (on school supplies, for instance, it increased from 4 percent to 21 percent). In Greece, public- and private-sector employees took to the streets in protest at lower salaries and unfair taxes. And in 2013, French food-plant workers facing redundancy joined forces with the Bonnets-rouges (red-caps) movement launched by farmers and small-business owners to defeat an eco-tax on heavy-goods vehicles.
 
It was government policies that thrust the tax debate center stage. With rising mass unemployment and greater international competition, politicians have gradually abandoned intervention on the primary division of revenue between wages and profits. In recent years, the social question—formulated in terms of sharing profits—has been replaced by a tax question, deployed to win working-class support. In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy’s slogan ”Work more to earn more” and plans to make overtime tax exempt appealed to many working-class voters.
 
In 2012, François Hollande gave his manifesto popular appeal with the promise of a new 75 percent tax rate on annual income over 1 million euros, though the policy was so poorly conceived that it was thrown out by the Constitutional Council. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron used a promise to abolish residence tax to offset his image as a candidate of the elites, but later announced it would be phased out over three years.
 
There is a major paradox at the root of this politicization of tax: The working class are now the group most likely to criticize the taxation level, even though they benefit most from the tax-based redistribution system. The degree of dissatisfaction varies geographically.
 
People furthest from the big cities are most likely to feel unfairly taxed; those in the countryside and outer suburbs are much more critical of the system than Parisians. After several years of policies intended to encourage property ownership, many lower-income households who took on debt to buy their homes are also suffering from property-tax rises, which are being used to compensate for reduced central funding for local authorities.
 
Deteriorating public services
 
In some areas, the feeling of injustice stems from deteriorating public services and transport, especially rail line closures. To people in such situations who mainly travel by car and suffer most from gasoline-price increases, it feels as if their key institutions—the local manifestation of the social redistribution of tax receipts—are vanishing, from post office to school and railway station.
 
Tax scandals have also fueled popular distrust of the tax authorities. In 2011, it was revealed that France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, had concealed almost 100 million euros from the authorities and made cash donations to Sarkozy’s election campaign. That was followed by the case of Jérôme Cahuzac, Hollande’s junior budget minister entrusted with tackling tax fraud, who admitted in 2013 that he had 600,000 euros in a secret Swiss bank account, despite earlier denials.
 
Then there was a series of leaks: Luxleaks, Swissleaks, Offshore Leaks, the Panama Papers, and the Paradise Papers, all of which shed light on the tax-evasion schemes of multinationals, politicians, and celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment. These revelations exposed the myth of equal treatment for all under the tax system. In reality, there were two systems: In one, ordinary taxpayers were told they had to help to restore public finances; in the other, the powerful flouted the law and faced no consequences. (Bettencourt, who died in 2017, was never charged, and although Cahuzac received a four-year sentence, he stayed out of prison.)
 
Over time, the working class’s dealings with the authorities have only confirmed the feeling of one law for the rich. The poorest taxpayers often rely on civil servants to clarify their rights and have to cope with the tax system’s complex terminology.
 
Civil-service cuts have had an impact on this; between 2005 and 2017, successive governments have got rid of 35,000 jobs across the public-finance system, including many frontline staff. In rural areas, tax-office opening hours have been cut and the queues in the towns have grown longer; that penalizes the least-educated taxpayers, who prefer face-to-face contact to online services, especially when they’re seeking discretionary exemptions from residence tax, property tax, or television license fees because they cannot pay.
 
With more unemployment and less job security, such requests increased from 695,000 in 2003 to 1.4 million in 2015. But the prospect of convincing the taxman of the merits of your case varies according to your social class; our survey of people engaged in a tax dispute in 2017 found that 69 percent of those in higher classes received a favorable decision compared to just 51 percent among the working class.
 
The financial crisis has also had an impact. For salaried employees and small-business owners, whose purchasing power has been stagnant, or is declining, taxes seem less like a quid pro quo for public services and more like an extra expense. Their sense of injustice increases when their struggle to pay is combined with a belief that their money is being used to enrich people who are better off than they are. Since the 2008 crisis, job losses and the disintegration of the industrial fabric have starkly revealed politicians’ inability to challenge offshoring. The state, once seen as a guarantor of protection, now seems like a distant institution that serves the powerful.
 
In addition, in small businesses especially exposed to international competition, tax is often seen as a direct threat to job security. This perception, amplified by the media’s coverage of “burdens on the cost of labor,” means workers are making common cause with bosses, especially over income tax and over-regulation.
 
In an atomized labor market in which employers readily use outsourcing, challenges to tax also come from young non-graduate workers, who have been badly affected by unemployment and job insecurity. For many of them, the atomization of work has meant the erosion of group solidarity and a loss of a sense of affiliation: a far cry from the stability of civil service employment. These workers consequently resent the state and its employees, who enjoy a level of protection they lack.
 
Self-employment is one option for those worst affected by the crisis, but many who take this path feel that excessive costs are put upon them. The image of a small business crippled by tax and social-security payments goes with that of a state that is out of touch with real-world challenges.
 
The value accorded to work as a source of dignity and reward is accompanied by the stigmatization of (tax-funded) welfare. The destabilization of whole sectors of the lower-paid workforce has fed the working class’s growing distrust of tax, with preserving jobs at all costs the ultimate goal.
 
The working class’s sense that their trust has been betrayed over the funding of the welfare state has long been hidden in taxation debates. It comes into play during election campaigns, but politicians are always more concerned that the middle class; the social group with which the majority of voters identifies, and upper class continue to support the principle of taxation.
 
Since the early 1980s there has been a proliferation of tax loopholes offering new ways to reduce income tax, whereas VAT has remained the same for all, and only the transportation sector has received any fuel-tax concessions.
 
There are many ways for households to reduce their income-tax liability such as party and association donations, home working, and energy-efficiency schemes which also enable optimization schemes for the wealthiest.
 
Measures that benefit the richest
 
Such exemptions influence tax rate rises. According to our research, taxpayers who exploited at least one tax loophole are 1.4 times less likely than those who did not to agree that the French pay too much tax. The drama played out in the media this autumn over deductions at source has shown a government ready to mobilize in defense of measures that benefit the richest: Prime Minister Édouard Philippe eventually decided that 60 percent of certain tax credits would be paid in January 2019 and not six months later as originally planned.
 
The government has also passed other measures that benefit the richest, such as the extension of the Dutreil pact, which allows business owners to pass on their businesses, as a gift or inheritance, and avoid most or all transfer-tax liability. This windfall completely escaped media attention and has not been fully costed; enlarging this loophole, which already costs the public purse around 500 million euros a year, represents a very substantial saving for beneficiaries.
 
Meanwhile, journalists and politicians have kept their eyes firmly on the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). Even if it’s too soon to say if the movement will last, the gilets jaunes have revealed, among other things, the working class’s long-held feelings of the tax system’s injustice.
 
* Alexis Spire is a sociologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). He is the author of Resistance to Tax, Attachment to the State: An Inquiry into French Taxpayers: http://www.thenation.com/article/gilets-juanes-yellow-vest-taxes/


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