Tripartite Social Summit
Barroso and Van Rompuy: Time to spend time on growth
By Sophie Petitjean | Thursday 01 March 2012
“The European social model is not dead.” It was with these words that European Council President Herman Van Rompuy closed the Tripartite Social Summit, on 1 March, just hours ahead of the meeting of heads of state and government. To the great satisfaction of the European social partners, the meeting focused on social dialogue as a vital instrument for restoring growth and jobs. “Because of the urgency of the debt crisis, structural reforms, growth and employment have sometimes been relegated to the background. I am not saying that the debt crisis is behind us, but it is clear that we now have an opportunity for a change of perspective,” commented European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. The question is whether this really reassured the social partners. The meeting was limited to an exchange of views on the current situation, including youth unemployment. The European social partners - UEAPME, BusinessEurope, CEEP and the ETUC - also unveiled their joint work programme for 2012-2014.
“I welcome the emphasis placed on growth and employment today, because the European Trade Union Confederation is convinced that budget austerity will not bring Europe out of the crisis. […] But beyond this recognition, our views on the types of measures to be implemented still diverge,” noted ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol.
Employers called for structural reforms to stimulate growth while trade unions took a radically different tack.
TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES
“Budget consolidation is necessary but is not enough. […] That is why we support structural reforms, which will encourage private spending, restore business confidence and put Europe on track to growth,” said Gunilla Almgren, president of UEAPME (association representing SMEs). Public and private employers also urged the EU to support European enterprises further. BusinessEurope (private) called for completion of the single market for services, development of the single market for digital services and the promotion of external trade. The European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services (CEEP) voiced concerns about proposals on state aid, public procurement and concessions currently under discussion.
The trade unions pushed for a change of mentality. “The accent does not always have to be on structural reforms and social deflation. On the contrary, the ETUC recommends a financial transaction tax, a greater effort to combat tax evasion, pooling of debt, reinforcement of the European Central Bank, and so on,” said Ségol.
In spite of their differences of views, the social partners presented to the Commission and Council presidents and the Danish, Cypriot and Irish ministers their joint work programme for 2012-2014. The programme, which concerns reforms needed to develop social policies, puts special emphasis on youth unemployment. The social partners plan to study the connection between education, young people’s expectations and labour markets, and to make practical recommendations to member states and the EU institutions. BusinessEurope also presented the report by its working group on the employment outlook for young people and proposals on apprenticeship and work-linked training systems.
The other key themes of the three-year joint work programme are the changing labour market, skills needs in the framework of the ‘green’ economy and the participation of older workers, mobility and economic migration. The social partners commit to launch a reflection process with the aim of determining a common approach to the consequences on European and national social dialogue of the current debate on European economic governance. Subjects of discussion will include salaries, pensions and labour costs.
The social partners plan to study the connection between education, young people’s expectations and labour markets