ETUC assesses the social results of the Luxembourg Presidency : "Excellent work in progress"
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) regards the Presidency as a period in which to measure progress made with regard to EU social policy and legislation. While ETUC recognizes that an EU Presidency cannot make decisions on its own and needs the cooperation of the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council if it is to take effective action, any Presidency has a special role to play in the way it leads debates, establishes priorities, prepares the practical work to be done and profiles specific issues.
The ETUC is not giving an overall political assessment of the Luxembourg Presidency’s performance. The verdict is based primarily on the ten social tests that ETUC presented in its Memorandum to the Luxembourg Presidency 27 January 2005.
Based on these ten social tests, the ETUC concludes that the Luxembourg Presidency had one main priority, to strengthen the social dimension at any price. It did achieve several of its own social objectives and tried to fulfil ETUC’s ambitions to strengthen Social Europe. On June 2 in Luxembourg, the EU Council of Social Affairs Ministers was successful in reaching a political agreement on a proposal for a directive aimed at putting into effect the agreement concluded in January 2004 between social partners in the railway sector on certain aspects of working time adjustment for mobile railway personnel. ETUC regrets that Austria, the United Kingdom and Slovakia abstained.
If the situation is nevertheless worrying, the Luxembourg Presidency is not to blame for this. On several issues the European Commission was clearly responsible for the lack of progress or for presenting inadequate proposals (revision of Working Time Directive, revision of European Works Councils (EWC’s), social protection etc.). In other cases, various governments in the Council delayed the adoption of a compromise (temporary agency workers) or insisted on compromises that are inadequate for the social dimension of the European Union (financial perspectives) or defended solutions that do not respect fundamental rights and principles (working time). At the same time, ETUC considers positive the efforts made by the Presidency in relation to the revision of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) as well as in keeping the balanced three pillar approach in the revision of the Lisbon strategy. We also regret that some areas were not given enough attention during the Presidency, as it is the case with the priority of gender mainstreaming.
TEN SOCIAL TESTS FOR THE LUXEMBOURG PRESIDENCY
1. Social Agenda 2006-2013: Lay a solid base for the new European social policy agenda for post-2005 and ensure the right balance between legislative and contractual instruments. Verdict: Positive
2. Services: Make the proposal for a Services Directive acceptable and ensure a strong social dimension for the internal market. Verdict: Mixed results
3. Working Time Directive: Put an end to individual opt-outs and safeguard the basic principles of the Directive, i.e. the right to limit working hours, the protection of health and safety, offering both companies and workers flexibility and security. Verdict: Negative
4. Lisbon Strategy - Mid-Term Review: Ensure steps to meet the Lisbon Objectives, to keep the integrated approach and to launch a review of the Stability and Growth Pact. Verdict: Mixed results
5. Gender Equality: Implement gender mainstreaming to all policy fields, and start a genuine process of gender proofing in all stages of policy making. Verdict : Negative
6. Temporary agency work: Adopt the directive without further delay and make sure that the principle of equal treatment is respected. Verdict : Negative
7. EWC revision: Accelerate the revision process and embark on the next phase of consultation. Verdict : Pending
8. Health and Safety at Work: Take initiatives for the adoption of REACH taking account of its consistency with health and safety directives and define a ’duty to care’ for all the respective chemicals. Verdict : Mixed results
9. Social protection: Promote open method of coordination for health and ensure mobility by guaranteeing the portability of supplementary pension rights. Verdict : Positive
10. Financial perspectives: In light of the limit proposed by the Commission (1.24%) in the financial perspective for the 2007-2013 period, ETUC feels that the 0.41% allocated to cohesion policy is inadequate if the EU is to attain the ambitious goals proposed in the ongoing pursuit of European construction. Verdict : Pending
Was this article interesting and relevant for you? Do you have any comments?
You can post a reply to this article here.