The meeting was organised in partnership with other important contributors in European civil society, Caritas Europa, Solidar and Diakonie Deutschland. Discussions focused on how social partners and civil society need an enhanced role in Economic and Monetary Union in the EU.
Thomas Mann, Vice Chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, opened the debate by highlighting the issues which a social dimension to Economic and Monetary Union needs to address. Among these concerning issues are the 27 million unemployed people in Europe, high youth unemployment and the reality of poverty in the EU.
In particular, Mr Mann drew attention to how the Youth Guarantee is being implemented in Member States, calling this action in the fight against youth unemployment as a first step, not a last step.
Conny Reuter, Secretary General of Solidar, discussed the involvement, or lack thereof, of civil society in Economic and Monetary Union. In an enhanced social dimension proposed by the European Commission (October 2), Mr Reuter said that civil society has a complementary role to that of social partners, but that it should be involved in its own right. On the content of the proposals, Mr Reuter called for more action, “We need not just a dosage of a social dimension, but it needs to be an anchor.”
Katharina Wegner, Representative of Diakonie Deutschland at the EU, wanted to offer a national perspective on the debate. For Ms Wegner, not only is there a need for a social dimension in coordinated EU measures, but there should also be more social aspects in measures directed at individual Member States, such as in National Reform Programmes or Country Specific Recommendations.
Thomas Mann MEP (EPP) and Jean Lambert MEP (Green) attended the event
Jorge Nuño-Mayer, Secretary general Caritas Europa, echoed other contributions in underlining the problem of poverty in Europe, an issue which civil society feels has been insufficiently dealt with at European level. This is an area which should be addressed through a strengthened social dimension in Economic and Monetary Union.
However, do the proposed social aspects go far enough? CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger looked at this question. As expected CESI welcome any proposals which enhance a social dimension in Economic and Monetary Union. However, more needs to be done, and should have been done already. Mr Heeger questioned why it took an economic and financial crisis for this to happen?
The success of these proposals lies, like all proposals, in their effective implementation and their acceptance in society. Klaus Heeger highlighted that this was a problem for the European Semester as a whole, “These processes are in risk of becoming unsellable to citizens and unsellable to civil society. Trade unions, CESI included, have a responsibility to translate processes such this to workers, to citizens, to voters, to enhance understanding and engagement in the EU.”
Green MEP and member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, Jean Lambert (UK), agreed with this role but took the point further, “The language of the EU in general has to be more about the people.”
CESI would like to thank the office of Thomas Mann MEP, as well as Caritas Europa, Solidar and Diakonie Deutschland, for their cooperation on this event.