On 27 June 2023, Counter Balance and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Brussels Office organised a roundtable on European Public Investments for a Socially Just Transition. The roundtable brought together labour unions, civil society organisations and academics. The aim was to discuss the impact of EU public investments on energy, housing, public services and industry and to facilitate dialogue on pressing issues in these areas.
The discussions began with a focus on the gap between the funds mobilised and the actual needs in the European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. It was suggested that funds should be targeted based on criteria like income, energy poverty, gender and regions with higher levels of deprivation. Concerns were raised about the EU Renovation Wave's varying approaches across Member States and some states failing to top up their Just Transition funds.
Insights into the European Investment Bank (EIB) were provided, highlighting its financial reserves and the need for leveraging its capacity to invest in projects addressing social issues. The EIB's reluctance to invest in specific projects, such as housing cooperatives, and its tendency to prioritise shareholder capital were discussed.
The participants engaged in a lively debate, covering various aspects related to public investment and the EIB. Concerns were raised about the treatment of people on the ground in Just Transition investments, the effectiveness of investment programs like the Juncker Plan and InvestEU and the allocation of funds to sustainable projects.
The roundtable also addressed the political space for EU institutions to push the EIB for public investments and the importance of systemic changes. The lack of political coordination in building regeneration and more generally in financing the recovery and social climate investments has been underlined. Additionally, conflicts of interest and the need to involve trade unions and civil society in the process were highlighted. The participants emphasised the importance of tangible actions, practical approaches and concrete proposals to achieve a just transition, focusing on social needs and environmental considerations.
Key proposals included developing tools to defend and provide sufficient public investments for a just transition, formulating implementation plans, stronger links with workers, and a wealth tax to finance social and climate needs. The mid-term review of the recovery fund, discussions on the new Multiannual Financial Framework and the upcoming new presidency of the EIB were identified as crucial political moments. Collaboration with organisations working on public investment and fiscal space was encouraged.
Participants recognised the potential for a more equitable and sustainable economic model that prioritises people's well-being. The roundtable concluded with a commitment to future cooperation and exploration of common positions and areas of collaboration.
Overall, the roundtable highlighted the need for targeted and socially just public investments, leveraging the capacity of institutions like the EIB, and aligning economic changes with social and environmental goals.