Treaty change needed to protect social rights

Treaty change must be on the table in the Conference of the Future of Europe if the process is to have a meaningful outcome, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini has warned EU leaders today.

Speaking at a high-level ETUC event on the conference alongside its executive board co-chairs Guy Verhofstadt and Ana Paula Zacarias, Visentini said it must move past institutional “process” which has caused delays and focus on delivering “ambitious content” that can reconnect Europe with working people.

He said: “This is a fundamental moment in the history of the European union, to shape a fairer European Union that takes care of its people…European citizens and workers expect us to deliver.

“It cannot be only about process. We need ambitious content. We need to push for a radical change. Radical change of our economic mode - moving from an economy that serves profits to a social market economy as stated in the treaties.

“[A model] that benefits people, that goes behind GDP, beyond blind fiscal to build wellbeing and better opportunities, equality and inclusion for all. Only through this radical change will we be able to defend the European project.”

The ETUC has put forward 15 proposals reflecting the concerns of working people, ranging from raising pay through ensuring the respect of the right to collective bargaining to a climate transition that’s fair to workers in affected industries.

They also include a social progress protocol to ensure freedoms for companies are never again placed over social rights of working people, as was the case in the notorious Laval and Viking cases which opened the door to social dumping across Europe.

“We expect treaty changes to be considered, I want to be very clear on this,” Visentini added at the event which was also addressed by European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, the Europe ministers of France, Portugal and Sweden, and MEPs including S&D leader Iraxte Garcia Pérez.   

“First of all to unblock the paralysis of unanimity and the obsession of subsidiarity. To move to a more integrated and ambitious EU that requires qualified majority voting on more crucial issues including on economic and social policy. 

“If treaty changes will be possible and we hope so, we advocate for a social progress protocol to guarantee that social rights take precedence over economic freedoms in the event of a conflict. This was the case in the past - that we have enormous conflicts between these two levels of rights and unfortunately social rights were always defeated or put in a secondary position. It’s really time to change this.”

“It is also necessary for the European Social Pillar to become a building block of our social market economy.”


See below for full speech

Watch the speeches in full:

ETUC proposals to the Conference on the Future of Europe: