The ETUC expects the Swedish Presidency to tackle European workers' urgent concerns

Brussels, 07/07/2009

The ETUC regrets that the social dimension of Europe does not seem to be amongst the priorities of the Swedish Presidency. John Monks, ETUC General Secretary, declared: ‘In our view, the European Union should be sending a clear signal of understanding and action regarding the most pressing concerns of European workers in a moment of rising unemployment’.

The first and biggest challenge will be to steer Europe through the financial, economic and social crisis, to maintain existing jobs, to create the conditions for the creation of more and better jobs and to table regulation for the financial markets.

A second major challenge is to ensure a successful outcome of the Irish referendum and a smooth transition from the Nice Treaty to the Lisbon Treaty, in other words to give Europe a new political impetus. Once the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the European institutions will have to put ‘full employment’ and solidarity at the top of their agenda.

The third challenge is the climate change agenda with a view to the Copenhagen Conference. The time has come for Europe to invest in providing for more and better jobs, to promote innovation, research and development and employment in key industries, to invest in new, green and sustainable technologies, to sustain high quality public services, and to provide workers with the qualifications needed for tomorrow’s low-carbon economy, within green technology and better qualified jobs.

In order to regain workers’ support for the EU, the primacy of fundamental rights over the single market rules needs urgently to be asserted. The ETUC expects the Swedish Presidency to correct the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings which have elevated free movement above upholding collective agreements and allowed undercutting and unequal pay to develop. Indeed, the ETUC has already presented several proposals in this respect, such as the addition of a social progress protocol to the Lisbon Treaty, in order to assert the primacy of fundamental rights over the single market, and a recast of the Posting Directive.

The ETUC appeals to the Presidency to attach a social progress protocol to the Treaties and thus to provide a guide to the ECJ about the need to uphold fundamental rights in the single market. If not, the pressure on trade unions to turn against the single market will intensify; this will only add to the difficulties in the current crisis. The impression that ‘laissez faire’ is the guiding principle on these matters is spreading, and the ETUC hopes it can find enough support to correct that perception.

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The Trade union memorandum to the Swedish Presidency of the European Union can be downloaded at the following address: