20th Anniversary of Val Duchesse

Brussels, 29/09/2005

To be checked against delivery

Today we honour and celebrate the past but most importantly, I hope, use it as an inspiration for the future.

We may no longer be, to use a phrase, in the heroic age of Jacques Delors. But as the French votes, in particular, reminded us, many Europeans do not want a Europe in which social considerations are relegated in importance to the single market. Europe's leaders forget that lesson at Europe's peril.

And so now we have various exercises to prove that there is no one European Social Model - but a collection of different ones. André Sapir is the latest arguing for five models - Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, Continental, Mediterranean and new member states.

Yet following this route is dangerous for Europe. Of course there are big differences but looked at from outside Europe - say from China or Texas - they look more alike than different.

The European Social Model is characterised by good welfare states, services of general interest and collective bargaining - where else in the world has these strong features? Canada, New Zealand, some signs in Brazil and that is about it?

So please, no sterile debates about do we have a European Social Model. We do. It varies but it is there - and it is necessary.

Let me explain. We are developing a huge single market - 470 million. It is, and in 6 years, will be characterised by the free movement of capital, of goods, of services, and after the transitional arrangements lapse, of workers too.

If this is not the base for a European labour market, I do not know what is. How workers who use their rights to free movement are treated outside their home country?

Which labour laws affect workers moving countries, under which agreements, do people operate?

And how do companies behave when operating outside their home environment?

We already have two potentially huge cases on their way to the European Court of Justice - the Vaxholm and Viking cases - where, in the first, collective bargaining systems in one country can be undermined by an agreement in another member state; and in the second case the right to strike over the substitution of Estonian terms for Finnish ones is being challenged as interference with the single market.

These are the start. This whole area of what laws and standards, and collective bargaining, apply in the single market and its social dimension is crucial - and not just to the future of the Services Directive.

Securing agreed clarity should be a central task of the Social Dialogue in the future. To anyone who wants to park the Social Dimension, I say you risk parking Europe as a whole.

The other central task is in the future of the Social Model is to draw on Europe's strengths and to generalise them. Here I can be more positive on the Sapir exercise.

If we could start to aim at a European Social Model with Nordic active labour market policies and strong but flexible collective bargaining; German vocational training standards and other exemplary features from other countries, then Europe would with the right economic framework thrive. Learning from each other is important for all our futures.

Finally, there is a tendency to re-nationalise social policy. As an example, UNICE do not want anything more at European level which intrudes into the pay and hours relationship in member states. I say, in reply, that Europe must tackle the issues that matter. Our work programme must be on issues that count, not those on the margins but in the centre.

We want to be very positive on the future of the Val Duchesse process. The ETUC is developing a new agenda for Social Europe - not to defend the status quo but to face the problems Europe has.

We need to finish the outstanding business on working time, temporary agency workers, the Services Directive.

We need to create a strong framework to face delocalisation and restructuring. Europe did it for coal and steel. Why not now for textiles?

We have to face the demographic challenges.

We have to deliver active labour market policies and the learning agenda.

We have to ensure equality for all.

We must create the right framework for migration and mobility.

And we must strengthen the Social Model's external dimension and export it.

The duty of our generation is to honour the legacy of Val Duchesse and to build on the achievements of our predecessors. Not wind back, not park, not re-nationalise but build.

John Monks
General Secretary