22 April, 2007
"Speak up Europe!" Seminar: Enabling a social Europe with a European Constitution
On 20-21 April 2007 in Munich, the UEF held a very interesting, lively and interactive seminar on the perspective of a Social Europe. The seminar ran over two days and was divided into three discussion parts.

The first discussion focused on the Lisbon Process and the European Constitution. Main speaker was François BILTGEN, Luxemburg Minister of Labour and Employment, who talked about his experience and about his vision of the Lisbon process. The second part looked at how social affairs should be addressed in the constitutional treaty and welcomed Dr. Roman MARUHN from the Center for applied politics of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München as guest speaker. Finally, the third part of the seminar concentrated on the “federalist perspective” of a social Europe and was chaired by Joan Marc SIMON, member of the FC, with Jan KREUTZ, also member of the FC and Assistant to Jo LEINEN, MEP and chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

In his speech, the Luxemburg Minister of Labour and Employment reminded the public of how vividly “Social Europe” was discussed in the latest referendum campaigns, not only in France but also in Luxemburg. He stated that even if the social dimension had not been treated in the Rome Treaties, Europe has progressively obtained a social dimension. François BILTGEN stressed the needs and advantages of a Social Europe and the common values emerging from it:

Solidarity (especially in social security and social inclusion), Social dialogue (currently exist at the European level) and the value of human labour, which has a deeper signification than the economic and employment notions.

One of the main issues linked to the debate on Social Europe were the difference of notions people attach to the concept of a Social Europe. “Labor protection and employment creation” could often be seen as contradictory.

On this point, BILTGEN insisted that there was no mathematic correlation between labour law and employment and emphasised that labour law could not solve the problems of the labour market alone: “Labour law is not enough, not only do we need more jobs but we also need better jobs! Europe needs to invest more into research and development as the Lisbon Strategy clearly has proven inefficient. We often talk about growth and employment as objectives in the EU when in fact they are tools to be used to reach a higher common objective, a Social Europe”.

The seminar was the chance for the participants to challenge and question the Luxemburg minister on the objectives and results of the Lisbon Strategy that was launched in March 2000 with the objective of turning Europe into the most competitive, high qualified economy.

François BILTGEN stressed that a Social Europe could only be possible if the 4 freedoms (free movement of goods, services, persons and capital) were actually achieved and that the free movement of persons was still not ensured satisfactorily in the current EU single market.

The audience agreed almost unanimously on the fact that the EU should implement a system of minimum social standards in Europe, where standards can differ from country to country but exist and are binding.

The second part of the seminar entitled “More social Europe with a European Constitution” featured Dr. Roman MARUHN from the Center for applied politics of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. The question “Can a European Constitution bring a Social Europe?” was at the centre of the debate but other interesting themes were addressed by either the speakers or the audience, such as the efficiency of the Lisbon Strategy, the efficiency of the EU in terms of jobs protection and creation.

Finally, on Saturday morning, Jan KREUTZ took up on the points made by Mr. BILTGEN the day before and demanded that the European Central Bank to adds Employment, Growth and Sustainable development to the main aim of control of inflation. In his opinion social cohesion is a premise for the achievement of sustainable growth. A lively debate followed the introduction from Jan KREUTZ. The participants debated whether it makes sense to have social policy at European level and on whether the EU should intervene more in order to guarantee rights to people and not only freedom for the market. Two resolutions, one on Social policy and the other one about business role in promoting social Europe, were presented and debated by this seminar.

To read a French article about this event, please go the website of the Luxemburg Ministry of Labor and Employment.

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