In June and July 2012, Poland is going to host Euro2012, the European Football Championship. The organization of the championship was sold to us as a development opportunity for Polish cities. The authorities tried to convince us that due to the championship small business, infrastructure, tourism and sport would develop, and Poland would gain international respect. The blessings from the Euro2012 were compared to those that came with the post-war Marshall plan. Such media messages were needed to gain social support for the games and to cover up its real costs.
Today, we know that it will be the inhabitants of the cities who pay for the sports spectacle. The cities that have invested in the tournament are already on the verge of bankruptcy. The debt related to the Euro2012 accumulates up to billions of Euro. The estimated sum spent on the tournament is about 25 billion Euro. The money spent on the stadium in Poznan – 190 million Euro – could, for instance, cover the costs of about 6,000 missing spots in public day nurseries.
The preparations for the Euro2012 demand extraordinary expenditures, which will not be reimbursed by foreign tourists or investors. Economists from major Polish economic schools have calculated that the organization of the Euro2012 will contribute 7 billion Euro to Poland’s GNP until 2020. That is only one third of the overall costs of the whole project – what about the other billions?
The coming social crisis does not only stem from the expenditures spent on Euro 2012. The crisis is a result of the anti-social politics since the 1989 transformation. Nevertheless, the organization of the tournament reveals the hypocrisy of the authorities and the priorities they follow. While billions are spent on the football championships, cuts on spending necessary to fulfill basic social needs are introduced all over Poland. Kindergartens, schools, and cultural centers are closed down, the fees for day nurseries, public transportation and municipal housing are going up. Hospitals, health centers, and factories are either privatized or shut down. There is no funding of measures against unemployment, which is on the rise. The prices of food, gas, petrol, electricity, water, and medicine have increased significantly. The government just increased the retirement age, while decreasing spending for seniors’ care.
The increasing costs of living coincide with the deepening housing crisis. If the basic needs of Polish citizens were to be covered, about 1.2 million of flats would have to be built. Such demand creates very high property prices. Meanwhile, local authorities sell out more municipal houses than they build, evicting people on a massive scale at the same time. They evict mothers with children, disabled people, and pensioners among others, who then have to wait for municipal housing for years. The dramatic lack of affordable housing and massive evictions are only a part of the social costs resulting from the enormous debts of Polish cities.
The institution that will earn the most on Euro 2012 is UEFA, which, thanks to a contract signed with the Polish government, will not have to pay any taxes, including VAT and CIT, as well as local taxes and customs!
It turns out that the championship generates profits for the elite that we all pay for. Women in Poland are especially going to bear its costs. It is women who are typically the first to be fired, who earn less than men and more likely to work on precarious contracts. They are often doomed to starvation-level welfare ‘benefits’ and long-term unemployment. What is more, budget cuts and privatization are primarily hitting public institutions and social services, where many women work and which they rely on. Limited access to care and educational services as well as municipal housing, increasing prices of electricity, food, and transport means more work for women, at home and outside of it.
However, the whole society relies on the accessibility and quality of social services and public institutions. But for a state or a city, which is governed as if it was a company, the provision of care means ‘unnecessary’ costs. Yet, if none of the housework or care-work was done, factories, hospitals, offices, shops, and other institutions would stop functioning. That is not taken into consideration when city administrations decide on their budgets. Without subsidies, care work is the private duty of female workers, not the responsibility of the entire community. Women will stay home with their kids, or they move the burden of childcare over to grandmothers; care-takers will earn starvation wages, and single parents as well as people taking care of the disabled and ill are left with no support. We see that, instead of development, poverty and inequalities are generated.
State politics and city budgets cannot be subjected to the organization of sporting events. Our communities have to be organized in a way such that the needs of care and education are met first, so that everybody’s living conditions will improve. That is why we demand that those fields become a political priority, not a slavish duty of women.
Our everyday common needs can be realized through the change of political priorities. We need cheap municipal housing, equal access to free education. We need free day nurseries and kindergartens, care for the elderly, functioning culture centers, good and accessible health care, cheap and efficient public transport. The neoliberal state or the ‘city-company’ destroys citizens’ rights, as well as the basis of life and a durable local economy because it transfers profits to financial markets. Those who make money on city debts are a few privileged groups of decision-makers and banks.
We want to take back what has been taken away from us; we want to make decisions about our lives. The official Euro2012 slogan is ‘Creating history together’. Let’s create it together, but without the political and business elites that prey on us! We don’t need them. Let’s organize without them, according to our own needs!
Statement of the organizers of the demonstration „Bread instead of the Games”