Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its consequences has placed humanity’s most pressing global challenges into the limelight. Climate change, rampant poverty, and the erosion of political and civic freedoms have resurfaced as political priorities because of the fundamental need to ensure food, energy and income security.
The aim of the ‘Tackling the Rise of Living Costs’ conference in Vilnius was to gather key experts and stakeholders to discuss what needs to be done to alleviate the societal burden of the extraordinary rise of living costs. In doing so, the meeting provided valuable inputs to the progressive forces in the Baltics for further concerted action.
The geographic location of the meeting is significant. In Lithuania, as well as in the Baltic region more generally the inflation shock is one of the highest within the European Union. Take Latvia and Estonia for example. Baltic democracies also suffer from high socio-economic inequality. Given uncertain economic growth, these inequalities could be a path for longer-term destabilization, which may also have broader repercussions within the EU.
However, this crisis comes with a disruptive potential for the European political and economic status quo. In other words, we face a real possibility of a great transformation of our political and economic regime. What is at stake, therefore, is whether we will be able to both uphold and further enhance our core democratic ideals. This is the principal link that unites the conference sessions under the umbrella of progressive action.
The conference included three policy-oriented discussions involving experts and stakeholders. Each one of them deals with a concrete dimension of the societal contract affected by the rise of living costs. Namely, macroeconomic governance, labour relations, and sustainable development. The conference was finalized by a discussion between politicians – former European commissioners and members of the European Parliament from the region. It helped us reflect on the future of European integration, as an essential framework for implementing any sensible progressive innovations.
Event location: Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University.
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