Informal European Council
Growth: Unions and employers press for different solutions
By Sophie Petitjean | Wednesday 23 May 2012
The European social partners are not exactly on the same wavelength when it comes to ways of stimulating economic growth in Europe. In a letter sent to EU leaders ahead of the informal summit, on 23 May, private sector employers suggest structural reforms while Europe’s trade unions propose a recovery plan based on investments. The meeting of heads of state and government aims to identify the key elements of a growth strategy that will be formally adopted at the June European Council.
Gathering at the Schuman roundabout in Brussels’ EU district a few hours before the meeting, European trade unions urged EU leaders to give priority to investments rather than deregulation and austerity. “The new advocates of growth are calling for growth through structural reforms. These reforms are just another word for more deregulation, more flexibility, fewer public services and in short, more insecurity. The growth we recommend is completely different. We want a recovery through investment, through wage increases. The European Central Bank must guarantee the common currency to restore growth and confidence. New sources of financing also need to be given serious consideration (financial transaction tax and eurobonds),” stated the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, Bernadette Ségol, who also called for Greece to remain in the eurozone.
In its letter to EU leaders, Business-Europe asks the 27 to focus on consolidating public finances and structural reforms, which in countries with unemployment crises could concern labour market legislation and wage bargaining systems to reflect productivity. The federation of private employers also suggests that Europe take steps to protect the euro, support investments, develop external trade through bilateral agreements and complete the single market for services, the digital economy and energy.
The European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services (CEEP) wishes to see the specific characteristics of public services taken into account. “Public services represent the link between an excellent internal market and a highly competitive social market economy. […] Effective, quality public services are the key ingredients for successful decisions on a new growth agenda,” declared CEEP President Hans Joachim Reck.
The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) proposes labour market reforms (to enable SMEs to invest) followed by tailor-made financial instruments for SMEs, such as loan guarantees or mezzanine finance.