EU Reform Treaty: Statement by the ETUC

Lisbon, 17-18/10/2007

1. The ETUC regrets the unambitious nature of much of the EU Reform Treaty. There was a real opportunity to revive social Europe by extending qualified majority voting and by extending the competences of the Union to control the dark side of globalisation and rampant financial capitalism. What we have instead is a series of modest adjustments to the EU’s framework of rules, which will have only a limited impact on the process of deepening Europe’s capacity to act decisively in the world.

2. We understand the need for the EU to avoid a further period of institutional paralysis. We recognise too that there are important improvements in the text from a trade union view when compared to the Nice Treaty like the introduction of full employment as a goal and the concept of social market economy. In particular, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will become legally enforceable on member states although the UK and Polish opt out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and other limitations on the Charter will inevitably adversely affect its value. The ETUC deplores this action by the UK and Polish Governments.

3. There may also be some confusion about exactly what ‘legally enforceable’ means in relation to member states. The ETUC would like a clear confirmation that there is no doubt that the Charter is legally binding on member states when the Treaty is ratified. Although an improvement to the Nice Treaty the ETUC is also concerned that, in the new text, there could be a lower profile recognition of the role of social partners than was the case in the former EU constitutional treaty. It is very important that the Social dialogue/partners section has the same legal value as the earlier section of the Treaty, is prominently featured, including in a declaration, and is clearly applicable beyond the limits of social policy.

4. On services of general interest, the ETUC welcomes the proposed new protocol, but underlines the need for a regulatory framework at EU level.

5. Once the Treaty is signed, the ETUC calls on the EU to move on and undertake a fundamental review of Europe and globalisation covering economic policy, the operation of financial markets, industry policy, including research and development and innovation, and giving new impetus to social Europe to help workers handle change. The ETUC will be mobilising behind a trade union programme for the next European Parliamentary elections in 2009.