ETUC : The Intergovernmental Conference must effectively guarantee the European Social Model

Brussels, 09-10 June 2004

1. The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) is entering into its final phase and its ‘culminating' point at the European Summit on June 17/18. The ETUC is concerned that the political debates about the attribution of powers in the EU institutions might result in neglecting the need to reinforce the social dimension of the constitutional process. We have featured this in demonstrations in Rome last October and on a European wide day of Action on April 2/3. The social achievements of the Convention text, which were welcomed by ETUC, are under constant attack and the IGC might end up with a compromise at the lowest common denominator - well known from former IGCs. In fact it was criticism of this process for being untransparent and undemocratic, which had led to the introduction of the Convention method to formulate the new Constitution.

2. One of the main cornerstones of the new Constitution - the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Part II) - is under attack. The intention is to render the Charter as having little more than declaratory status with no practical capacity to support and strengthen workers' rights. This strategy was observed during the Convention and has been evident in the IGC process. To continue the salami tactic activities on these lines after so many compromises which were made against the will of most members of the Convention and Governments in the Intergovernmental Conference is not acceptable. Maintaining the Charter is therefore a primary goal for the ETUC.

3. Without re-opening the general debates on Parts I and II, the ETUC needs also to reiterate its main demands concerning Part III:

- consistency between Parts I and III in respect of the social objectives (‘full employment', ‘social market economy');

- recognition of the specific role of social partners and social dialogue not only in Part I but also in Part III in conjunction with effective access to the European Court of Justice;

- no regression in respect of the existing EC Treaty, in particular in the horizontal social clause introducing Part III;

- strengthening of economic governance;

- proper recognition of services of general interest.

4. These main demands have not yet been taken into account, but on the contrary several points are being changed in order to weaken the social content of the Draft Constitution in particular, (the introduction of ‘price stability' as one of the predominant objectives of the Union comes before ‘social market economy). Nonetheless, some governments are aware of the crucial importance of the maintenance of the social dimension of the EU and importantly, France, has asked for a reinforcement of the Article on Social Partners. The attacks however continue.

5. Trade unionists all over Europe are deeply concerned that some Governments are currently opposing every positive European initiative in the social field. Meanwhile, trade union leaders and trade unionists who are seeking to encourage participation in the forthcoming European elections face the ground cut-away from underneath them as the social dimension of the European Union, on which trade union support in Europe has been based, appears to be under continuous attack from some Governments and from the business side too.

6. The ETUC, therefore, urges the Heads of States and of Governments to take ETUC demands into account and to fulfil them to the largest possible extent, as well as to reflect carefully on what is at stake and to understand the real frustration and growing disappointment in the European trade union world. Governments must be aware of the risk of a strong reaction building up among the working peoples of Europe as well as pensioners if the Constitution is unsatisfactory on social questions.

The European trade union movement - and we are convinced the peoples of Europe too - will only give back enthusiastic support to a constitution that strengthens the European Social Model, balances the dynamism of the economy with solidarity, and provides protection for workers, consumers and the environment from the destructive forces that unregulated capitalism can unleash. We need to create a people's Europe not a business Europe and to strengthen the European Social Model.

The ETUC is arranging a special meeting in early July to address the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference.