ETUC President Laurent Berger speech to EU Social Summit

ETUC President Laurent Berger

Madam President of the Commission,
Mr President of the Council,
Mr Prime Minister,
Honorable commissioners and ministers

Dear Colleagues,

Let me first remind you that the ETUC and the trade union organizations in Europe have called for an ambitious and large-scale recovery plan to respond to this unprecedented crisis that we will have to face. The Next Generation EU proposal responds to this request and we welcome it. Now it is necessary that this proposal be approved quickly so that the various measures can be deployed quickly.

Acting quickly is vital for our economies, a matter of survival for our businesses and essential for our social models. European workers and citizens expect a lot from their states and as much from Europe.

It is also, and you know it, a democratic issue. The rise of populist and far-right forces is fueled by the disappointed expectations of our fellow citizens and the feeling of the immobility of our leaders.

The democratic issue is for us an essential dimension of the European response to the crisis. Essential, in the objectives but also in the method.

In the objectives, and we have emphasized this several times, we cannot continue as if this crisis did not take place and turn a blind eye to the dysfunctions and social injustices that the pandemic has exposed. Our economic model, which has shown its limits, must be re- examined. We must change the paradigm for a fairer, more social and more sustainable economic model. To do this, it is important that the objectives of ecological and digital transition, initiatives on pay transparency, minimum wages and collective bargaining, as well as the establishment of the European Pillar of Social Rights remain on the agenda.

The message for European citizens must be clear: they will be at the heart of a fair response to the crisis. 

We cannot accept that the consequences of the pandemic serve as an excuse to infringe on workers' rights, and more broadly human rights. That some governments take this opportunity to undermine the rule of law by trampling on the workers' right to organize. We saw it and denounced it during the confinement period, we cannot tolerate it for the rest.

And that brings me to my second point: the democratic issue in the method. In fact, we argue that the aid from the recovery plan should be conditioned, among other things, by respect for the rule of law for the Member States and respect for social dialogue. 

Finally, this plan cannot be a success without the contribution of the social partners and their establishment as close as possible to the realities on the ground, in national and sectoral plans to make the recovery strategy fully operational. But also to solve, with the European institutions and the Member States , all the possible problems and obstacles on the way of implementing the recovery plan.

There will be no recovery without Social Dialogue.

More: Speech of ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini