Salomon on austerity and human rights in Europe

Margot Salomon, an Associate Professor in the LSE Law Department, has recently published a short note on “Austerity, human rights and Europe’s accountability gap”. She argues that :

Europe’s elite failed to see the eurozone crisis, and the responses to it, not only as a financial and economic issue, but also a human one. They failed to acknowledge that stabilizing economies through austerity measures at best secures socio-economic rights only indirectly and tenuously and, at worst, violates them egregiously. Decades of experience from elsewhere in the world on the human costs of structural adjustment should inform current decision-making, as should the experience of the impunity with which international organizations function when it comes to the harm to human rights caused by their policies. The people of Greece were treated as if ‘politicians can only think about one thing at a time’, and with grave results.

From Lisbon through Sevilla and Ljubljana to Athens and Nicosia, the Eastern and Southern European countries have been in recent years facing the negative consequences of the economic crisis and structural reforms. It seems that the level of protection of social and economic rights has been rapidly declining. Nonetheless, some important questions remain unanswered. Do more developed, mostly Northern European states, have extraterritorial human rights obligations to assist less developed, mostly Eastern and Southern European states in protecting economic and social rights? If so, what is the nature and scope of such obligations ?

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