Berlin, 14 December 2018: The return of identity politics, growing social and economic imbalances, and the breakdown of traditional political patterns such as the left-right divide are at the heart of the deepening crisis across European societies. In his lecture – ‘The 2019 European elections: Europe at a crossroads’ – at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC), former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer presented an unsparing analysis of the major drivers behind recent developments. Technological progress in the form of digitalisation, automation, and – as we are increasingly seeing – artificial intelligence, is leading to a rapid devaluation of labour, primarily in low and unskilled sectors. Whole chunks of society fall out of – or never get a chance to enter – what used to be defined as a meaningful existence, with meaning deriving from the practice of some sort of profession, be it simple or low-paid. Gusenbauer cited an OECD prediction according to which 30-50% of jobs in industrialised countries are going to disappear over the coming decades. Among the consequences across all developed societies will be a sharp contraction of the middle classes, generating further imbalances and polarisation. The “era of the European welfare state is over”, Gusenbauer said. For that reason, the former chancellor demanded an urgent and radical review of the labour-based taxation system, and its restructuring, focusing on the “taxation of profits, capital, wealth, certain forms of consumption, and in particular, ecological consumption”.
Globalisation and the aforementioned social and economic changes are equally instrumental for